1998 Covenant Conference
Closing Worship, Saturday, November 7, 1998

Prayers of the People

by Pamela Byers
Elder, Old First Presbyterian Church, San Francisco, and
Executive Director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians

Let us join our hearts in prayer.

O God our Creator, we are in awe of your gorgeous imagination. You reveal yourself in sunshine and snow, in turning leaves and towering mountains. Most of all you show your profligate creativity in the variety of the people you have created and love.

We thank you for your ongoing creation: for the splendor and promise of each new day, for the hope of the “new thing” that you create in our midst even now, and for the grace with which you create us anew when we feel old and tired.

And we marvel at the mercy by which you, who set the galaxies whirling in the heavens, come nonetheless into our lives and care about our struggles, our uncertainties, as we strive to be your disciples and guests.

O Lord, our hearts are full as we come before you this day. We are filled with joy and gratitude for all the gifts, the new visions, the connections in your church we have experienced in these days together. And yet we are saddened by all the ways our church falls short of living out your gracious intention. We are so grateful for the calls to service each one of us has received; and yet we sorrowfully confess how our church tries to limit the reach of your call.

Redeeming God, forgive the busy-ness that too often lets us turn away from your gracious invitation. Forgive the quickness with which we turn away from the pain of our brothers and sisters and sometimes seem to resign ourselves to evils we deplore. And forgive, we pray, all the ways in which we fail to be your welcoming church. Forgive the hard-heartedness that lets each of us draw our own exclusive circles and decide with whom we want to share your good news.

Save us, we pray, from the self-righteous assumption that we alone understand your purpose, and from the easy bitterness that lets us dismiss the faith of those with whom we disagree. Open our hearts, we pray, to embrace not only the servants we like and whose exclusion we passionately feel and mourn, but also the servants whose understanding of your will is so very different from our own, yet whose devotion to you is no less.

Thank you for giving us the church, yes, the Presbyterian Church (USA), to be our family, to direct our service, to empower and inspire our witness. Thank you for its historic mission and ministry. Give us all new zeal to support and advance it. Thank you for bringing us together here, but thank you especially for the community that keeps us connected in spite of distance and difference. Direct and use us, we pray, to help your church reflect your grace. 

O God our Sustainer and Comforter, surround with your love and consolation, we pray, all who suffer this day in body or spirit. Give hope to those overwhelmed by circumstance, those without homes on our own streets, those whose homes and hopes were swept away in Central America.

Be with those who feel yet again rejected by their church, and those unable to believe in your welcome. Strengthen and bless all those whose gifts our church will not officially receive, but who in their love for you serve you nonetheless, as we name them now to you in silence or aloud: [Hugh . . . Scott . . . Mary . . . Joe . . . Dan . . . Daniel . . . Susan . . . . . . . . ]

And be with each of our congregations as we strive to be faithful to your call and yet to stay in communion with all our sisters and brothers in your church. Particularly today we hold before you the congregations and sessions of Christ Church, Burlington and First Church, Stamford.

Creating and redeeming God, inspire us now with your vision. As we wonder what the future holds for us, help us to remember that you hold that future.

Help us indeed to turn to you in faith when we don’t know what to do. Help us not to strain at gnats, but to find you in all who gather around your table.

Send us forth from here encouraged to be your leaven in a desperately flat world. Even when we cannot yet see the results, give us the faith to keep working in the bread ­ the bread that is your body, the church.

And give us, loving God, the patience, the persistence, the integrity that come from trusting you. Help us to remember that this is your church. Help us to believe that we are your body. And help us to embrace, to trust, and to reflect the self-giving love that you so amazingly shower on us every day.

All this we are bold to ask in the name of your revelation and son, Jesus Christ, who invited us all to pray together:

[Congregation] Our Father, who art in heaven. . . .