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Prayer in the Face of Grief and Tragic Loss

The following prayer grew out of a pastoral response to the tragic and untimely death of a young man named Stephen. The pastor, working with a family whose experience and writing included exploration of many metaphors and names for God, cast the prayer using a broad range of images. We share the prayer here as an example of prayer "on the ground." Rather than saying that this is a prayer that should be used in most or all situations, we propose that it be seen as one expression of trying to be faithful to God in a specific context.

For official resources for "Untimely or Tragic Death," see The United Methodist Book of Worship, 163-164.

A Prayer

Divine Darkness, when the night of grief swallows our feeble light, help us to feel you lovingly wrap us in that very darkness.
Hidden God, we are angry. Where are you? Show yourself. Explain yourself. Feel the heat of our frustration and fear we share only with you.
Burden-lifting God, our grief weighs us down. It feels as if our backs will break along with our hearts. We are smothered by the weight. When it feels as if we can bear no more, Loving Shepherd, bear us forward.
O, Answer to all Mysteries, we have unanswerable questions. We struggle with "If only ..." and "What if?" and "Why?" Give us grace to live the questions in the confidence that we don't have to have all the answers.
Our Beginning and Our End, you have taught us about life; now teach us about death. Comforting Mother, let us lay our wearied selves next to you, to sense your breath, to feel your warmth, to hear you tenderly call our name.

Gratitude for a life
Co-Creator you have entrusted(name) to us. He has been a part of his parents' vocation, part of his sister's embrace of life. The blessing of his love shared among us invites us to live in Your peace.
Giver of Peace, Spirit of Peace, Lord of Peace, God of Peace, Prince of Peace, we thank you for Stephen's passion for peace that helped others to be attracted to the majesty of peace beyond the apparent power of war.
Divine Midwife, you brought into this world (name) — so precious a creation. You were for him Anchor, Compass, Life-giver, Friend. You, O Weaverwoman, built networks of friendship and growth in each new stage of life. You formed a pattern of purpose that was strong, open, inviting. You were the Patient Potter discovering the shape and purpose that was in him.

Infinite and Intimate Friend, we now hand (name) back to you. He was always yours, after all. Thank you for the blessing of love shared between us. Through our tears we trust that in You he rests in peace.
Challenging Father, keep before us the needs and opportunities of daily life. You are the Holy Timekeeper; help us to know the times to work, to rest, to receive, to give. When grief or loneliness comes crashing upon us, be our Shelter from the Storm. When we wander, when we wonder be to us the Wonderful Counselor. In the cacophony of the world, be to us Healing Silence, Calming Water.
In our words, our tears, our sighs, our silence hear our prayer. Amen.

Copyright © 2003 R. Preston Price. Local churches and their leaders may reproduce this prayeras long as the following copyright and permission notice is given:

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