To channel my thoughts, I found this a helpful guide to my prayer for those who are suffering in the midst and wake of the tragedy in Boston…taken from the United Methodist Book of Worship, 546. The words can be appropriate utterances for many going through seasons of varying degrees and types of suffering. May you find words of resonance.

(Photo credit: CNN)

(Photo credit: CNN)

O Healer of Galilee,
You are afflicted in the sufferings of your people
and are full of compassion and tender mercy.
Hear us as we pray for those who suffer:

For all who suffer trauma in body or mind…

For those whose livelihood is insecure,
the overworked, the hungry, the homeless, and the destitute,
for those who have been downtrodden, ruined,
and driven to despair…

For little children,
whose surroundings hide them from your love and beauty,
for all the fatherless and motherless…

For those who have to bear their burdens alone,
and for all who have lost those whom they love…

For those who are in doubt and anguish of soul,
for those who are oversensitive and afraid…

For those who suffer through their own wrongdoing…

For those whose suffering is unrelieved
by the knowledge of your love…

Set free, Helper of the weak,
the souls of your servants from all restlessness and anxiety.

Give us the peace and power that flow from you.
Keep us in all perplexities and distresses,
in all griefs and grievances, from any fear or faithlessness;
that, being upheld by your strength
and stayed on the rock of your faithfulness,
through storm and stress we may abide in you. Amen.

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“In the fertile land, the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden…A river flows from Eden to water the garden…” (Genesis 2:9-10)

“He carried in his own body on the tree the sins we committed…By his wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will heal them; the Lord will raise them up.” [The oil used in services and prayers for healing is from the olive tree.] (James 5:14-15)

“On each side of the river stood the tree of life…and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2)

Photo credit: Josh Scholten at http://www.cascadecompass.com

In the sermon yesterday, I mentioned a bit about the story of Cairo, Illinois, its turbulent history of racial tension and its dwindling economic plight, as well as its difficult conditions today. More than 55 arsons have occurred since 2007 in the town of (now) less than 3,000 people. The most recent fire occurred last weekend, which you can read about here. And here is an image of the building engulfed in flames:

Photo of the fire at old King Tut’s Tavern on Ohio & 8th in downtown Cairo. (Photo credit: WPSD-TV)

Carrie and I took the kids to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago, and drove through Cairo on our way. As we drove slowly through the downtrodden city, my heart was broken by the signs of poverty, abandonment, desolation, and destruction that was seen on almost every block. Soon, I began to wonder about those in the town’s midst who have been and are fighting an uphill battle for the cause of justice, praying the town is not deserted, hoping against hope that there is a positive future for the city, that it really can thrive again. I’m not sure where they are, but my prayers have gone up for these warriors, that more support would come their way, that they might see signs of resurrection hope in the city of decay.

As I was doing some reading about the town last weekend, I soon found out that Chris Tomlin recorded most of the video, “I Lift My Hands” in Cairo. Most of the images you see convey, in part, the decline that Cairo has suffered.  The opening lyrics of the song gripped me: “Be still, there is a healer…” The language of healing is one that is apt to describe what I pray for Cairo. This 5 minute video is very good and helps convey the message of the power of belief and hope. So give it a watch & listen!

My heart was stirred in watching this. But I must also admit that often the difficult part of this prayer, is the recognition that the harder the decline and the deeper the hurt a person or a town or a nation or a world endures, the more patience, the more work, the more difficult decisions, the longer amount of time is needed for healing. But maybe, just maybe, God will stir in the hearts of more people to reflect on the coming kingdom, whose tree of life produces leaves that are for “the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2) and will do whatever possible to bring the life from those leaves to the decaying and despairing parts of the world around us.

“Our Father in heaven…your kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.”