A pastoral prayer for September 11

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By Rev. Michael Duncan

The past week gave us ample opportunity to remember and reflect upon the devastating attack on the Twin Towers and our nation.  I didn’t need to read about Sept. 11, 2001, or see videos from that fateful day in order to remember. Those images are burned into my mind.  I see them without wanting to do so and I too vividly recall the way in which the events of that day changed the manner in which I looked at my neighbors — both those known to me and strangers I passed in crowded places.

In the years since, I have been reminded of truths which those of us who profess faith in God forget at our peril.  We are not and cannot ever be totally safe.  We live in a dangerous world in which evil happens.  There is, though, something greater than the evil.  There is God, whom I know best through the revelation of Jesus, and the love lived and demonstrated by Jesus.  I cannot control the evil done by others.  I can choose how I will react.  I can choose to react with the love with which I have been loved, and I can pray for the grace by which to remember that Jesus’ love extends to enemies as well as to neighbors.  

What follows is a prayer written by Commander Chuck McGathy, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy, Senior Protestant Chaplain, Naval Station, Rota, Spain, and published online by Ethics Daily — www.ethicsdaily.com — headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.  It is shared by permission of ethicsdaily.com and with the prayer that it will guide us in our thoughts and prayers we respond to our neighbors—those do good and those who do evil.

Eternal God, look down upon us and move among us; through your Spirit peer into our very souls and know our hearts.

It is to you we lift our minds and emotions on this day that has come to remind us how fragile we really are. Ten years have come and gone since we were shaken by profound hatred and fear. Religious intolerance, spewed like a great evil upon any who would dare think or believe anything contrary, blindly attacked and murdered in your name.

As we watched the innocents die, so too something in us died. When some of their bodies were recovered, we realized our conception of the world could never be recovered. At their graves we mourned not only their loss, but also the loss of the illusion that we were somehow immune from the anger and pain of people far away, who speak, think and suffer in ways we had never imagined.

It was too tempting, too easy in response to that hatred and fear to become fearful and to hate in return. We confess that we have not always acted with love and wisdom. We sometimes allow the desire for revenge to overwhelm our desire for justice. When we do that, we become no better than those we fear. Evil wins.

Yet we have also seen something else, something hopeful and positive emerge from this unspeakable tragedy. We have seen a new birth of concern and of caring, of love and of justice. There are those right now standing in harm’s way willing to lay down their lives if necessary to protect the lives of others. Their courage and compassion inspires us to open our minds and our hearts, to embrace one another and try again to live as brothers and sisters in our human family. Watch over them and bring them home safely.

Then this last year when the earth shuddered and a wall of water rose and flooded the land, when people of all faiths suddenly died, some folks said that was in your name too. Still many of us had learned something since 9/11. We somehow knew that was our family and so we gave and we prayed and we went and helped. We lived the gospel because we could answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

And so today, God, be with us in our suffering and shame and sin. May the Prince of Peace fill our vision with a new and better day. Show us the way to forgiveness and justice and mercy.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen.