Praying on 9/11

angrycrowdOften when human relationships falter, there is a lot of blaming that goes on.  Those dealing with such situations quickly tire of all the blaming, faultfinding, and finger pointing which only helps to escalate hostilities.  The blame game.  And those who see it express the sanity of “stop blaming everyone else.”  While we appreciate the wisdom of this in personal relationships, we might find it harder to accept when applied to world events.

One thing one can notice in Orthodox prayers dealing with war and adversaries is that many of them do not blame the enemy, but start with personal repentance and asking God’s forgiveness.  The assumption is that if terrible things are happening to us, it is because we are sinners.  These assumptions and prayers are not always satisfying as they do not attempt to justify our own reactions to things, nor do they validate our point of view, nor do they vilify the enemy.  The prayers do not rely on human ideas of justice or righteous retribution.   They are one Christian way to deal with the antagonisms and aggression we experience in life (and might even inflict on others).

Below are a few prayers shaped by Orthodox Tradition which do not allow us to accept a self-pitying victimization point of view.  They seek God’s help and mercy. The proactive prayer in Orthodoxy has us repenting first and approaching God in humility, not asserting our righteousness, but asking God’s mercy first.  We approach our God on 9/11 with humble hearts, acknowledging the pain of the evil we have experienced.  We recognize what evil has done to us while beseeching God for mercy.

911O Lord our God, our help and assistance. You are just and merciful, and You hear the prayers of Your people. We humbly beg You to look down now upon us sinners and have mercy upon us. Through your deep and abiding love for us, deliver us all from this evil that has befallen on our nation from the senseless, violent and evil actions of terrorists and have mercy on us.

To those taken from us by these evil actions, give them rest with the saints in a place where there is no pain, sorrow or sighing, but life everlasting. Sustain and heal those who have been physically harmed but live on, and bring them to full restoration and health by Your Grace. For the families and friends of those killed or injured, grant them, O Lord, comfort, aid and mercy. Deliver them from the assaults of the evil one and grant them Your mercy.

ground-zero-crossO Lord, while we do not understand the purpose of these tragedies, we believe that you allow trials in life so that we may learn to trust in Your Love and Complete Goodness. Grant everyone awareness of your Presence, Your All-encompassing Love, and Your True Peace. Fill our hearts with Your Hope and inspire us to cherish life as well as defend against all violence, for all life is precious and comes from You the True Source of every good thing. Protect us and have mercy on us.

Endow us with patience and strength to endure all tribulations with an awareness of Your truth, and teach us to learn by our holy submission to Your gracious Will. You know our misery and suffering and to You, our only True Hope and Refuge, we flee for relief and comfort. We trust in Your infinite love and compassion. Deliver us from evil in these troubled times. Turn all of our distress into comfort, so that we can rejoice in Your mercy, and always exalt and praise Your Holy Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

9/11 Remembered

Grant rest, O Lord, to the thousands of our fellow humans who lost their precious lives fourteen years ago through the misguided deeds of murderers who lost their humanity and their souls.    Bless and comfort all of those throughout Your world who have suffered as a consequence of these evil deeds.   Grant healing to our broken hearts, forgive any sins we conceived or carried out in our blindness caused by pain.  Help us Lord to overcome all evil in the world and especially any evil that infects our hearts and souls.  Show us how to overcome evil with good.  Guide our leaders to deal fairly and justly and in right measure with those engaged in wickedness, to bring them, if possible to their senses.  Lord, we need  your help to live upon Your earth.  Amen.

A flower marks the birthday of a victim of the World Trade Center terrorist attack.

9/11 Prayer for Peace

ground-zero-cross

As we come to the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, we who are disciples of the King of Peace, should pause for prayer – for the peace of the whole world and for the salvation of our souls.

MyOrthoPrayerAlmighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth. Guide, I pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace. Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict and war. Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find justice, peace and freedom. Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease and oppression. Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image, to Your honor and praise. Amen.

  (My Orthodox Prayer Book, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Kindle Loc. 824-34)

Here is a thought on peace for Christians written by a 4th Century Christian whose identity is not certain, but today he is called Ambrosiaster by many scholars.

“By fearing God and not retaliating for offenses, a peaceable person can maintain  peace with someone who hates peace. This would be overcoming evil with good, overcoming by gentleness a person who does not submit to the commands of the law. If it is possible, so far as it depends upon you, he says, so that by acting well they may display a  love of peace.

You must try to be peaceable, as best you can, even if others do not love peace. If  another person remains disrespectful and blasphemous, and so makes peace impossible,  at least the failure will not be attributed to you…  We are therefore prepared to  be at peace with everyone, if it can be done. However, it can be impossible not through our fault but because others resist and refuse to abandon a conflict with us. So a peaceable person is one who does not harm others.”  (Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators, Kindle Location 6132-38)

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

(Hebrews 12:14)

Everyone of us can wage war on terrorism by praying to God for the peace of the whole world, which includes peace in our hearts and minds.

Ten years ago: 9/11

Ten years ago today time momentarily came to a stop. It was unreal, and then that moment was played over and over again as if we couldn’t get out of it. We couldn’t make ourselves believe what had happened.

Ten years later that moment remains fixed in our minds, and yet time has moved on, and it is time for us to move forward as well – to continue our journey for there is hope in moving on.

“If faith represents the columns on which the temple of spiritual life stands, perseverance represent the stones by which the whole edifice is constructed but to assess the value of the spirit of persistence in prayer, we should first consider the spirit of despondency. Despondency is the folly of pride and stiffness of neck. The desperate man follows his own stubborn counsel and chooses the torment of everlasting hell. He does not wish to yield to God or accept from his hand the sweetness and the bitterness of this life. By doing so, he refuses the crown of eternal life.      

The spirit of persistence springs from an inward conviction that life is but one single way that leads to the kingdom of heaven. Persistence in walking along that way is then the only means of arrival, the only means of overcoming difficulties. Those who stop on the way, for whatever reason, have fallen into Satan’s snare: ‘Walk while you have the lighter, lest the darkness overtake you (John 12:35). That is, so long as you walk the light attends you and leads you, but if you stop, darkness – that is, the enemy – will overtake you at once. Regression is a kind of miscarriage of the soul, a failure, and a fall into its deadly pride and its strange desire for perdition: ‘No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:62) It is really amazing that for those traveling along the way of prayer and worship, rest lies only in double their pace and increasing their struggle!” (Matthew the Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pg. 164)

A Reflection on 9/11

Did God Stand Atop the World Trade Center?
Some in America seemed to believe,
For when those twin monuments to prosperity crumpled to dust and ashes,
So many asked, “Where is God in all this?”
He momentarily disappeared in that holocaust – from many a heart,
Awakening us from our American dream into an Islamic terrorist nightmare.
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” Asks God.
Only with that twin collapse did we imagine His pedestal there,
We didn’t question His presence before they were gone.
Unusual God who rests His feet by having them nailed to the cross.
Extol the Lord our God and worship at His footstool, for it is holy.
The dual sign of global dominance became sacred ground zero by blood.
The smell of money transfigured to the smell of death –
What it was to those who hated us, they converted it to for their enemies.
Such an enormous sacrificial offering to bring us to our senses, or to God’s?
Where was God when His made in USA foot rest was reduced to ruble?
Was He too buried beneath the ruins, or consumed in the inferno –
As so many felt in their hearts? So many dreams deferred.
Like two giant arms, those towers (two not just one!) pointed to the heavens.
Were they our Babels of arrogance, our delusion of access to power?
Our disparaging cry to the world, “Our name is Ozymandias,
Look on our works you mighty and despair!”
Or perhaps they were our Jerusalem temple –
Comforting us as a sign of God’s almighty and vigilant presence.
Or just the pinnacle from which Satan could tempt the Son of Man?
God resides with the humble of heart not atop our success and prosperity.
We live and move and have our being in Him. We cannot flee His presence.
Nor can evil create the place where He is not.
Did God Stand Atop the World Trade Center?
Yes. And in it and around it and beneath it.
Absorbing the blows of hatred in order to give life to His world.
And aglow with the light of hope in clouds of dark destruction and death
Christ is with us even to the end of the world, or of an era or of our dreams.
He still stands where we cannot.