Note: Thomaston Baptist Church recently completed a year-long celebration of 200 years of ministry in this community. The following is a prayer based on Psalm 27, for the next 200 years of ministry. The numbering of the paragraphs corresponds to the verses in the Psalm. This prayer was presented in the regular Sunday morning worship service, on January 22, 2017. Congregants were encouraged to follow along meditatively in their Bibles or to close their eyes. The numbering was not announced in the original presentation, but is included here as a guide for readers.
1) Gracious God, you know that we live in a broken world. We know that it has been broken since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden. And yet we confess that we have become afraid of the darkness around us. So many changes for the worse have taken place in our lifetimes that uncertainty plagues our hearts and we become dismayed. We also confess, if we dare, that we sometimes prefer the darkness around us because it lulls us into inactivity. We wonder what good, if any, our witness of your goodness and grace will do in such a broken world. And so we hide our witness and hope for the best. Help us to know that you are truly our light and our salvation. Stir us up to proclaim that light and that salvation to this broken world. Help us to understand that light always overcomes darkness, and be the strength that we need to believe it. Teach us never to be afraid, even in the midst of this frightening world.
2) So often, Lord we feel that we have become the victims of those who oppose us and who seek to trouble our souls. Too often Lord, we are content to remain victims, for we find a perverse joy in it. Teach us that you have achieved victory over all that paralyzes us. Remind us that the victory that you have achieved is your gift to us, and that it is not we who stumble and fall, but rather those who oppose you and the work of your glorious kingdom. And so we pray that you would pick us up and set us on our feet, never again letting us resort to a paralytic mentality characterized by weak knees and a faint heart.
3) There are times Lord, when we feel much smaller and more insignificant than we really are. Seemingly insurmountable difficulties stand before us like encamped armies ready to pounce on us and destroy us. We lack confidence in ourselves, but we also lack confidence in you. Help us to understand that that no difficulty is too large for you, to overcome, and that no enemy is too great for you to vanquish. Let us not face our future with fear but rather with confidence that you are sovereign over all things seen and unseen. Help us to believe that within the realm of your power that we are neither small nor insignificant, but rather, strengthened by your Spirit, we are mighty, powerful and victorious.
4) Lord, we pray that you will give us a vision of your beauty that infuses our hearts with unspeakable joy and gladness. Give us an unquenchable desire to be present in your presence. So overwhelming are the demands of our lives that even our vision of your beauty is clouded when we gather for worship. Teach us to prepare our hearts for worship, so that in coming to this place we will behold the glory of your beauty. Let nothing else cloud our vision of you, so that we will anticipate with joy every opportunity that we have to be in your presence and among God’s people. Create a hunger within us to learn from you and to grow in your grace.
5) Let this house of worship become a sanctuary and a safe haven to which we flee when the troubles of this world assail us. May we, especially, when we come here alone, sense your loving and compassionate embrace when all seems to be wrong in our lives. Help us to discover that when we are brought low that it is your pleasure to lift us up above our troubles.
6) When you have lifted us up and made our troubles seem ever so insignificant, teach us the freedom of letting our hearts loose with song. Let us let go of ourselves so that we can worship you with full heart and with full spirit. Give us the privilege of of being able to shout for joy from time to time. And keep us both honest and joyful in our offerings of time, talent and treasure.
7) When we pray, teach us to come to you first with thanksgiving and praise for who you are and for what you have done in our lives. Help us to count our blessings before we heap our needs and desires upon you. We count on the abundance of your grace and graciousness daily, so we humbly pray that you will hear us and answer us, even when we pray amiss.
8) And remind us, O Lord that when we do pray, that you are inviting us into your very presence. It is your face and your love that we seek. So again, hear our prayers and show us the abundance and the majesty of your presence.
9) We confess that there is much in our lives that justifiably stirs up your anger. We confess that we are broken people and that we lead broken lives. We know, that in spite of ourselves, you have always been there to rescue us when we go astray. And so we ask, with no justification whatsoever, that when we cast you off and when we forsake you, that you will not treat us in the same way that we treat you. You are the God of our salvation. Help us to remember that you love us even when we are estranged from you. Above all else, help us and empower us to be your faithful and constant servants so that we need not fear stirring up your anger.
10) Lord, from the moment of our births many of us here this morning experienced the sacredness of having two loving and caring parents who taught us by their example the importance of developing loving and caring and sacred relationships in our own lives. We thank you this morning for their dedication and especially for their patience when we disappointed them. Others of us here this morning, however, did not experience this tremendous blessing, and may even have been forsaken by our parents. We pray for them especially this morning. Give them the blessed assurance that though mother and father may have failed, that you never fail. You are our Heavenly Father. Let us never forget that, and may we always seek you out when we need the loving direction of a parent, for the road that we travel in this life is bumpy indeed.
11) Lord, we confess this morning that sometimes you and your ways are a mystery to us. We do not always understand what you are doing in this world, and we are sometimes confused by it. And so we pray that you would draw us often to your Scriptures so that we might better learn your ways, knowing that it is your intent in coming to us to fill every valley, to make low every mountain, to make the crooked straight, and to make the rough ways smooth. We pray for this in our own lives and for our world.
12) Lord you have told us that your kingdom is growing with the power of a mustard seed. You have assured us that your kingdom is so powerful and so victorious that not even the gates of hell will prevail against it. And yet we live in a world that increasingly seems to have little or no regard for you. It seems as though the mustard seed has died in the ground and that the gates of hell are prevailing against us. We thank you sincerely for the faith and dedication of our Christian forebears who answered your call 200 years ago to establish this congregation. We thank you sincerely for all of those who throughout these 200 years who have loved your kingdom and this congregation. We thank you for their service and for their faith. But more than anything else, we thank you for sustaining us and empowering us for these 200 years. And we pray this morning that you will imprint on us that same vision for ministry that our forebears saw so clearly.
Make us obedient to your will in all things. Give us the strength to rise to the challenges that our present world hurls at us, and give us faith to look ahead to what you have in store for us as a congregation of Christ in this community. Bring the mustard seed to life in our own hearts, and give us the power to storm the gates of hell whenever they stand in the way of the advancement of your most holy kingdom.
13) Lord, we so look forward to your second coming. We yearn for it. We deeply desire it. We long to be at home forever in that eternal place that you have prepared for us. We join with 2,000 years of faithful servants who have eagerly anticipated your return, since the moment that you announced it. And yet, we ask that you will give us both faith and patience as we await that moment, whether it comes 2,000 years from now, 200 years from now, 2 months from now, or in the next two days.
14) And until then, teach us to wait with strong and courageous hearts, knowing in all things you are sovereign and mighty and glorious. Amen.