Through the Spring and Summer, and now into Fall, we have borne the grief of a global pandemic, endured a massive loss of life and of livelihood, and protested escalating violence against Black Lives. Even as we wait on the help of Almighty God, we are compelled to stand up; to defend the cause of righteousness. With boldness in our prayers and by our actions we seek to redeem the soul of our nation.
Love Loses Its Way (Genesis 37:2-11, 23-24, 28, NRSV)
The Scripture reading is drawn from Sunday’s lesson for September 6, 2020 ©Uniform Lessons Series, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.
37:2 This is the story of the family of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.[a] 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.
9 He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11 So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleevesthat he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
A Back to School Blessing
Today’s prayer, written by Ashley Harris Dargai, of Azle Christian Church, first appeared in the August, 2020, Alliance of Baptists newsletter. It is used here with permission of the author.
Holy God, we confess right out of the gate that this is the strangest back-to-school prayer we’ve ever prayed. There is no guidebook for how to teach in a pandemic, so we pray the best prayer we can, trusting in the Holy Spirit who groans our unutterable longings beside us to fill in the gaps.
We pray for the teachers and the parents:
We pray for the grace of walking through a time that no one is sure how to navigate. We pray for the ever-changing formats and internet connectivity and home environments. We pray for the creativity hallmarked by educators to continue to be elastic and energized, that they find news way to spark connection and trust in a world turned upside down.
We acknowledge that everyone has struggled with what is best for their family and community and that for many, the choice was made for them by those in charge, by bosses, by bills, by internet accessibility, by medically fragile family members. We also realize that while our teachers and all those who serve in schools are heroic, we regret that they have been called upon to be so.
Protect our teachers from COVID-19 and its long-lasting, still unknown effects. May their homes be safe havens of respite and comfort. Grant them relief from fear and stress.
We pray for the principals and the superintendents:
We pray for courage in the face of public moods, frightening data, and the faces of the students and adults in their charge. We pray for wisdom as they make difficult decisions even as they deal with the trauma of experiencing a pandemic themselves. Grant them steady minds, tender hearts, and strong backs.
We pray for the mayors and the governors:
We pray for our leaders to be motivated by care for their citizens in every aspect of their lives. We pray for government officials who have dedicated their lives to public service to trust experts, to care for the most vulnerable among us, and to work tirelessly for solutions that promote the health, safety, and well-being of the people they serve.
We pray for the nannies and the daycare workers:
We lift up these often underpaid and undervalued workers who care for our most fragile and beloved children, the little ones who do not understand what a pandemic is. We pray for the good health, vigilant safety standards, and supportive infrastructure for these caregivers.
And we pray for all those who provide support and safe places for our children and teachers, those whose kindness and faithfulness remind kids they are valued:
the school nurses and the counselors
the cafeteria workers and the custodians
the teacher aides and the diagnosticians
the bus drivers and the crossing guards.
And God, we pray for the children.
We pray for those who will see their friends and teachers through computer screens, and for those who will be attending school in a mask with so many new safety measures that school may feel unfamiliar. We pray they are able to to cultivate friendships and feel connected to their community.
We pray each child receives the support and encouragement they require to be able to succeed. Give them courage as they walk these new paths, and may peace wrap around them like a blanket.
And Lord, we pray for the most vulnerable children in our school systems, whose homes are not always safe places. We pray for their stomachs to be filled with nourishing food, we pray for teachers and caregivers to see when they need to call for help, we pray for these children to feel the love and belonging from their friends and the adults at school. Grant them good health, a place to lay their head, and moments of joy.
We know and trust that each one of our students’ names are etched into the palm of Your hand, that each tear is noted by Your tender care, and that every heart is carried in Your heart.
Grant us all peace, O Lord, and help us to gird our loins. May we pass hope around like the bread at your table, making it multiply into communal strength and provision. May we pour out grace, filling each other’s cups, making hearts warm from love and smiles radiant with joy. Amen.