Prayers in a Time of National Tragedy

Gathering Prayer

We have gathered as a community,
not because we wanted to, but because we felt compelled to;
because we couldn't not be here––for one another,
for the families of the victims of terrorism,
and for the laborers who at this very moment seek survivors.

We gather as citizens who love our God
and who love the good land God has given us;
who cherish the freedoms we enjoy,
and who lament our innocence lost.
With anger we come, and with sorrow;
with confusion and concern.

Our spirits boil with emotion;
our minds are ajumble with nagging implications.
We come
to pray,
to listen,
to speak to God and to one another;
to lament our losses
and lift up our wounded hearts for healing.

Prayer for Relief Workers

Hear our prayers, O God, for those whose hands are scarred with rubble,
lungs strafed with dust and ash, eyes stinging from debris,
and minds reeling from having to look at scenes they had never in all their lives wanted to see.
Grant them clear heads and strong backs;
guard their spirits when they are confronted with death.
May they greet the living with hands of mercy and compassion.

Be present, Lord, to those who supply relief workers with food and clothing;
sustain them with continued resolve and support them with our generosity.
We pray, O God, give listening and able ears to those who counsel the bravest and the finest,
and as they shepherd the spirits of the EMTs and hospital staff members and doctors.
Grant endurance and continued hope, O God, to all whose hands and hearts will forever bear the marks of the days ahead.
Against the backdrop of humanity at its worst, inspire them to be at their best,
and quicken our resolve to respond when we are called on to help.

Prayer for the Nation

Hear our prayer, O Lord our God, for our nation.
In many ways we have come to a full stop; airplanes streak no streams across the sky;
the din of the marketplace is stilled; the joy of lauding a deft double-play has beentaken from us.
Be present with us as one nation under you, O Lord.
Give constant and wise counsel to our President and his advisors.
Be present with our armed forces throughout the world,
who take their posts day and night on our behalf on high alert.
Strengthen the resolve of those leaders
who seek true justice rather than blind retaliation.
Keep us all mindful of how small this earth is,
how interrelated our lives have become,
and how fragile security and peace is.
Hold us together as one people, Lord;
guard us from lashing out in prejudice against our neighbors
who, having come from many lands, now pledge their allegiance to but one flag.
Lord our God, have mercy upon us,
and grant us your peace.

Sharing in Prayer

At this time and in this safe place I invite all who feel led to say a few words, in whatever fashion they come to you. Feel free to express whatever is layed upon you heart, knowing that all that is spoken is spoken before God and in the company of God's people. Let this be a time for us to come together and share our souls honestly before God our maker.

Prayer for Families of Victims

We lift our most heartfelt prayers, O God,
for those who on this night are still waiting for word of their loved ones,
and for those who have already heard the worst.

We pray for those who are healing from injuries to body or mind.
We pray for those still unaccounted for.
We pray for moms and dads who went to work unsuspecting,
and for their children who expected them to come home and take them to practice.
We pray for all families whose histories have been forever altered
as the effects of the attack pass on from generation to generation.

We pray for those who have never been in battle
but who have witnessed war's ravages;
even the survivors, Lord, have become victims.
And although it is but by your grace that we come here to pray,
we, too, mourn our own innocence lost, O Lord.

You do not delight in wickedness, O God;
so enfold us with your compassion, uphold us with your love,
and keep us, and all who suffer, in your sight.
Grace us, O God; heal and embrace us,
and lead us from this darkness into your everlasting light.


A benediction is a good word. God's good word reminds us that it is better to light a candle than merely to curse darkness; that God's sure light shines in the darkness and that the darkness can never overcome it. Thus, after I bid you God's peace, I invite you to light a candle and take it with you as a pledge and a memorial that God's will will be done on earth as in heaven, and that rejoicing awaits those who take refuge in our God.

Dearly beloved friends, may God's everlasting peace be with you now, and give us all the spirit to face whatever we have to face, now and into tomorrow's tomorrows.

The above prayers are from the Rev. Paul Janssen, pastor of Pascack Reformed Church, and were used in a community service on Wednesday, September 12, 2001.