O Lord, we praise you because you are a great and mighty God. We praise you because you are a tender and compassionate God. We praise you because you are an all knowing and wise God. We praise you because you are a God of grace and mercy.

In recent days we have witnessed the unthinkable in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis….

Every day seems to bring a new disaster. Every day people are killed because of their religion, race, gender, lifestyle, or money. Every day children lose their innocence and often their lives. Every day people die because someone chooses to drive under the influence. Life seems to have little value to so many.

With the psalmist (Ps. 13) we ask, “O Lord, how long?” How long will our enemies cause unthinkable pain and suffering? How long will injustice prevail? How long will greed and hatred wreak havoc in our world?

With the prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 1) we know, “There is strife, and conflict abounds… (It seems that your) instruction is ineffective. Justice does not endure because the wicked surround (us) … (and) Justice becomes warped.”

Lord, we confess this morning that it is easy to get discouraged and become despondent because of the evil that seems to be everywhere. But we “trust in your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

Our hearts are broken and our spirits are sad because we have experienced the “sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, (that) threaten the soul with infinite loss.” But with the hymn writer, we declare that your grace is greater than anything. In the face of so much pain and sorrow, so much grief and fear, we claim that “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace” to cover us and our world in these difficult days. Our hope is in You, O Lord.

We pray for the victims of violence and injustice everywhere. We pray for those who are responsible for such heinous crimes. We pray for our world and all people that you created.

We pray not as a ritual without meaning but we believe that authentic prayer prompts action. It affects behavior. So, Lord, help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds. Help us to think right so we can act right. Bring out the best in us. Guard us from becoming so well-adjusted to our culture that we fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix our attention on you, O Lord. Change us from the inside out so that our lives will be pleasing to you. Deep within our hearts we really do want to be like Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, for we offer it and ourselves in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*This is the Pastoral Prayer that I offered today (July 17, 2016) at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

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