Today’s special Canada Day prayer for General Council comes from Rev. Lisa Waites, ordained this spring by Alberta Northwest Conference. To view the archive of all prayers being offered in the lead up to GC43 click here.
Before we pray, a note from Lisa.
I wrote this prayer for July 1st in seven stanzas, thinking I’d use one section each day with my congregants this week; the prayer ended up being longer than I’d imagined, but the words just kept pouring out of my heart, so I just kept typing. I’ve added a few of the Scripture references too, in case a phrase catches your ear and you’d like to read the verse/passage for context. Blessings all, – Lisa
“A Prayer for July 1st
Almighty God, we approach you today with reverence and, if we are being honest with ourselves, also with a bit of trepidation. You are a holy God, and we are your beloved, yet broken people (Isaiah 6:5). We fear that we have failed you. We know that the United Church is sickly, and we secretly worry that we have contributed to this spiritual and theological illness, instead of nurturing and grounding the church in the Word (Deuteronomy 8:1-18). We echo the plaintive cries of the Psalmist from the depths: “if you kept a record of our iniquities, Lord, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.” (Psalm 130:3-4)
Eternal God, as we prepare our hearts for worship on this Canada Day, we are aware of the all-too-often unconscious conflicts between our various identities as your people living in this time and place. We are Canadians, we are Christians, and we are leaders in the United Church of Canada, the closest approximation to a “national church” that Canada has ever had. Whether we intended harm, or not, our collective denominational history has been bound up with colonialism, nationalism, and the kind of patriarchal racism that implicitly assumed that the church “knew better than” our neighbours who were part of racial, cultural, or sexual minorities. In our fervour to share your gospel, we forgot to listen – to you, to our neighbours, and to those following spiritual paths that were different than our own (Leviticus 19:33-34). In our fervour to build your church while simultaneously building our nation, we forgot that elevating our country above your Christ was idolatry, a spiritual sin that could only ever lead to heartbreak and heresy (Exodus 20; Psalm 31:5-7). We would like to believe that we have relegated our colonialism, consumerism, and our racism in the past, but both our contemporary history, and our marginalized brothers and sisters say otherwise. O Lord, if you kept a record of our iniquities, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
Gracious God, we desire to be obedient to your call as ministers of your gospel and leaders in your United Church of Canada. As we prepare our hearts for this pivotal gathering of General Council, call us to prayerful reflection and to deep, respectful listening. Help us to be mindful of our historical errors, lest we repeat them by “speaking for” those who ought to be included in the conversation and welcomed to speak from their own perspectives. Help us to be willing to hear what your Holy Spirit is saying to us. Empty our hearts, O God, for we are far too often full of ourselves, and our own agendas, instead of being filled with your Holy Spirit (Isaiah 29:13-14). O Lord, if you kept a record of our iniquities, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
Patient God, you pour out your endless grace on us through your Son. You revealed your heart for us, and for all of humanity through the gift of the infant Saviour. The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ demonstrated your love for us while we were yet sinners, and your patience with us defies belief (Romans 5:8). O God, your United Church seems sickly and full of decay; give us hope and direction for the future. Kindle within us, and within all who attend GC43 repentant hearts, because in our fervour to pursue social justice and environmentalism, we have too often neglected the gospel, and forgotten your call to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Remind us that you will not despise or reject us, despite our sin. Call us back to you, O God! Kindle within us a holy boldness and give us the courage to believe that the United Church can be restored – not by our own efforts or in our own strength; not depending on our ability to make wise decisions, or on our personal charisma or character as Commissioners, but by your strength, O God, and through your infinite wisdom alone (Zechariah 4:6). Jesus, we cry out to you; show us mercy, and restore your United Church to spiritual health, we pray. O Lord, if you kept a record of our iniquities, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
Creative God, you birthed the church, the Body of Christ, by sending the Holy Spirit to the earliest disciples (Acts 2:1-4). We humbly ask you to rebirth and renew the United Church during GC43 by sending the Holy Spirit to all those who are physically present, and all who are praying for the proceedings at a distance. Like the wind that blew through the house where the early disciples were praying together on the day of Pentecost, send the wind of your Spirit to blow through the hearts of your servants at GC43, and through the very structures of the United Church. May the flames of your holy fire burn up our spiritual dross, refining us until we shine like the stars (Philippians 2:15-16a). Consume our arrogance, our apathy, our prideful assumptions, our antagonistic attitudes. Holy Spirit, lead us into all wisdom, reminding us that your voice is not often heard in those who shout the loudest or argue the longest, but through those who have learned to hear your voice by waiting patiently for your gentle whispers (1 Kings 19:11b-12). You comfort and challenge, console and convict us in your still, small voice; create in us the spiritual humility and maturity needed to not only hear you, Holy Spirit, but to recognize your voice, and to deeply listen and respond to the Word, spoken faithfully through you. O Lord, if you kept a record of our iniquities, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
Holy God, as we lift our concerns for GC43 before you, we know that you are already aware of every person who will attend these meetings, and every concern they will carry with them into the highest court of your United Church. May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ pervade the heart and soul of each person who has been invited to attend GC43 (2 Peter 1b-3). May the abundance of your merciful love and faithful guidance overwhelm each person’s spirit while they are serving you through their administrative, ecclesial, ethical, and theological tasks. May the many of us who are waiting and watching at home, from pulpits and in pews across the country, remember to pray daily for the United Church, especially for the spiritual health and well-being of the denomination, grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We must not allow you to be relegated to the margins of your own church, O God! Finally, please help us to remember that our spiritual rebirth as Christians – as the adopted daughters and sons of the living God – and our missional purpose as your servants, is far more important than our Canadian citizenship, no matter how proud of our country we may be (John 1:11-13). O Lord, if you kept a record of our iniquities, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
Triune God, we pray these things humbly, but also with confidence, through the grace of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, for the glory of God the Father, our Creator, and also for the healing of this broken, yet still beautiful world that you so love, and long to restore through us, your beloved daughters and sons (John 3:16-21). We lift our hearts and join our hands as we worship you, O God – praying and preparing, watching and working to bring the kingdom of God to earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). O Lord, if you kept a record of our iniquities, who among us could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. May these words become a spiritual sign of our willingness to repent, to become a church that is once again united in humble prayer for redemption and renewal, for rescue (from ourselves, mostly) and for a re-engagement with the good news of the gospel, sharing the reason that we have for the hope in our hearts with our neighbours and the nations (1 Peter 3:15b-16). May the content of this prayer provoke thoughtful reflection and faithful action in our own lives, and in the lives of all who are involved in GC43. Amen.”