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5 prayers to pray for in difficult times

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Do you pray more than you used to? What about topics: what have you found yourself praying during difficult times?

As we all know (and have experienced), these past few years have been really stretching; the COVID-19 pandemic; war in Ukraine; growing uncertainty about the economy and the rising cost of living, to name a few driving factors. Have our prayer habits and also what we pray for changed because of what we have been through?

According to 2021 research by McCrindle, during the height of the COVID pandemic in Australia, a third of Australians said they thought more about God (33%), while three in 10 (28%) believed that they had prayed more, with younger people (Generations Z, Y) leading the way.

Other research conducted during the pandemic, this time by our sister agency Tearfund in the UK, found similar results including:

  • A quarter of UK adults (26%) say they pray regularly (at least once a month).
  • One in twenty (5%) of UK adults say they have started praying during the lockdown but they didn’t pray before.
  • Among those who pray, nearly half (45%) say that they prayed since the lockdown because they believe in God, a third believe that prayer makes a difference (33%), a quarter (26%) say that they prayed in times of personal crisis or tragedy and a quarter (24%) say they have prayed to gain comfort or to feel less lonely.

Discovering Lament

At times, when we feel overwhelmed, uncertain, anxious and out of control, prayer can come as the last resort, or we can struggle to know what to pray. This is where the practice of ‘Prayers of Lament’ can be so important. As Tearfund’s Melody Murton writes:

Author and theologian Soong-Chan Rah suggests that the Western church is disconnected from the practice of lament – and the power that comes along with it. It’s one of the reasons that we find it hard to answer the question, “where is God in suffering?” By participating in lament, we position ourselves to see God in the midst of pain. In a culture that resists suffering in the name of preserving happiness, lament insists that joy and suffering are not contradictory. Followers of Christ have the privilege of offering the spiritual language of lament to a world that is suffering!

Read more in 'Why the world needs our prayers of Lament'

Words to pray

Of course, there are no rules. Prayer is simply about expressing to God what is on our hearts and foremost in our minds. Below are a number of prayers sourced from both current and historical sources that may provide helpful words, ideas and images for you as you bring before God the realities of both your own struggles and the challenges confronting our world today.

Prayer 1. A prayer in times such as this

Anon

Lord God, in times such as this,
When we realise that the ground beneath our feet
Is not as solid as we had imagined,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Today we pray for our brothers and sisters in Indonesia,
For all those communities impacted by last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami,
For those now in distress, struggling with grief and living in fear,
Comfort them Lord, in this disaster.
Be their rock when the earth refuses to stand still,
And shelter them under your wings when homes no longer exist.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, piece too our hearts with compassion,
We who watch from afar,
Move us to act swiftly this day,
To give generously every day,
To work for justice always,
And to pray unceasingly for those without hope
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Now and forever.

Amen

Prayer 2. Beyond

By Greg Hewson

Beyond the chocolate and the silver foil,
Beyond the rabbits and the eggs,
Beyond the myths and the misconceptions,

We seek to touch and know the living God.

Beyond the chickens and the holidays,
Beyond the rituals and the doubts,
Beyond the cross and the tomb,

We seek to touch and know the living God

Beyond today, beyond tomorrow,
Beyond the singing and the talking,
Beyond the eating and the drinking,

We seek to touch and know the living God

Beyond our homes and our streets,
Beyond our churches and our cities,
Beyond our states and our shores

We seek to touch and know the living God

Amen

Prayer 3. An Activist's Prayer

By Jack Reimer

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
For we know that You have made the world in a way
That we must find our own path to peace
Within ourselves and with our neighbours.

We cannot merely pray to You, O Lord, to end starvation;
For you have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to you, O God,
To root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all people
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to You O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For you have already given us great minds with which
To seek out cures and healing,
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.

Amen

Prayer 4. A Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

from ‘ Letters and papers from prison ’

‘In me there is darkness, But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways, But You know the way for me.
Lord Jesus Christ, You were poor And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me When all men fail me;
It is Your will that I should know You And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.’

Prayer 5 - Write a Psalm

The Psalms are full of prayers and songs of lament: of pain and hurt. Of crying out to God in the dark of the night, wondering if the sun will ever rise again. They can help us to verbalise our disappointment, desperation and anger at the world around us – such as the injustice that so many people are going hungry right now. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, even voiced his anger at God himself (Psalm 13, Psalm 79).

Psalm 13
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Begin by reading some of the Psalms to help you find the words to bring to God (Psalm 130). Then, write your own psalm of lament to God over this crisis. Ask God to move in power to help end this crisis.

Discover more Prayers

Lent 2023

Pray with us this Lent

Join us over the weeks leading up to Easter to reflect, pray and connect as we follow Jesus into prayer and justice.

Pray Like This is a seven-week series of prayer, art and spiritual practices to help you follow Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s Prayer, and explore the intersection of prayer and justice in your discipleship.

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