Prayers amidst turmoil

During what has turned into a very difficult day in the life of our nation, these prayers may be helpful to you. They are taken from pages 814-835 of the Book of Common Prayer. Some are slightly edited, and their numbers are retained here.

4. For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince
of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion
and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

6. For our Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

18. For our Country
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

19. For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governors of the
States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength
to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love
of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

20. For Congress or a State Legislature
O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and
gracious, and whose law is truth: We beseech thee so to guide
and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress
assembled, that they may enact such laws as shall please thee,
to the glory of thy Name and the welfare of this people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

21. For Courts of Justice
Almighty God, who sittest in the throne judging right: We
humbly beseech thee to bless the courts of justice and the
magistrates in all this land; and give unto them the spirit of
wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth,
and impartially administer the law in the fear of thee alone;
through him who shall come to be our Judge, thy Son our
Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

22. For Sound Government
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we
may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to
other nations of the earth.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors
of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative
authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their
duties.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our
laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and
foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to
fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding
and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and
justice served.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to
accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they
may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for
the well-being of our society; that we may serve you
faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name. Amen.

27. For Social Justice
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart and especially the hearts of the
people of the United States, that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

28. In Times of Conflict
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

33. For Cities
Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of
that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their
glory: Behold and visit, we pray, Washington D.C.
Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life.
Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate
poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail
with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and
women from different cultures and with differing talents may
find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

36. For the Oppressed
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

39. For those who Influence Public Opinion
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many
voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where
many listen and write what many read; that they may do their
part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and
its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

58. For Guidance
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and
light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all
our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou
wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save
us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see
light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Eulogy for Grandma Swenson

In loving memory of Ilah Swenson, 1924-2018. 

———

My grandmother called everyone, “honey.”

Wait staff, sales people, grocery store clerks, booking agents, teachers, preachers, me, and probably you.

“Well, hello there, honey.”

“Oh, honey, that’s all right.”

Growing up, I realized the uniqueness of my grandmother’s penchant for this pet name. I’d never heard anyone else use it like that before. It seemed kind of intimate for just anyone.

“Did you ever notice how grandma calls everyone, ‘honey.’ What’s up with that?” I asked my sisters.

“Well, I think she’s just really nice,” they replied.

But it wasn’t that fake kind of nice—the kind of nice people are to you even if they don’t like you. My grandma really was nice. I genuinely don’t think it ever occurred to her that a conversation partner didn’t deserve to be liked.

Another word for this behavior is “gracious.” She was gracious—all the time!

It’s really mind-boggling to think about. You don’t have to think back very far to get a sense of her grace-filled personality.

In her days at Armour Oaks, she would tell visitors every chance she got, “I wish I was still in my home, but I can’t be there anymore. I’m lucky to be here. And the food is…pretty good.”

I mean seriously, how could you not complain? But she didn’t. It sounds cliché, but I really do want to make the claim that she hardly ever complained.

A few times, maybe.

For instance, when she was in the hospital with severe muscle pain. And there was that one story she told about the time grandpa made her mad. (I think she must have forgotten the others.)

Surely she wanted to complain more, but I never heard her do it. Can you imagine?

It’s one thing to serve your family for decades and decades, to care for your husband and your children, and your grandchildren, but to do all that and never complain?

I can’t imagine. Can you?

But, then again, there’s a lot my grandma did that I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine marrying a widower with four children—toddler to teenager. I can’t imagine having that much family thrust upon me after coming to terms with the fact that I’d probably never have one of my own.

But she did it. And she loved it.

She gave her life to her family, and the only payment she ever wanted were the memories that they gave her.

“I lay awake at night,” she used to say, “before I go to sleep, and I think about my family, especially my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

And I am positive that when she lay in bed on the last night of her life, she was doing just that. And I’m sure that when the nurse came in to check on her and said, “How’re you doing Miss Ilah?” that she responded, “Oh, honey, I’m fine.”

And you know what? I think she meant it.

Because her family—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—where all right there with her, just like they were each night when she put her head on the pillow.

I cannot imagine a more gracious life, and it is my fervent prayer that we will inherit some of that grace.

Now, when I say inherit, I don’t mean something genetic, passed down through blood. That wouldn’t be the case with most of the family here, anyway.

I mean something else passed down, generation to generation. I’m talking about the little vehicles of grace that she shared with us, and that we will continue to share.

I’m talking about things like laughter from way do in the belly.

I’m talking about miniature cans of Coke.

I’m talking about road trips to Joplin.

I’m talking about stories from La Cygne, Kansas.

I’m talking about leaving a nativity set out all year long because it is always the right season to be reminded that God became flesh and dwelt among us.

I’m talking about cashing a “mad-money” check each month.

I’m talking about unplugging the toaster after each time you use it.

I’m talking about taking an hour to stretch out on the divan.

She shared all that with us. But most of all, she shared God’s grace, and now, we’ll share that Grace with the world.

The good news is, we won’t do it alone. We’ll have God’s help. And Ilah—Grandma Swenson—will still be with us. Perhaps not technically in the blood that runs through our veins, but steadfastly in the blood that Jesus gave.

So, come to think of it, I guess we do share blood. And just because she’s gone doesn’t mean we won’t find her there, each time we dip our bread in the chalice, each time we say our prayer.