My siblings in Jesus who earnestly asked his friends,
“Who do you say that I am?”,
I invite you to pray with me for all those made in this God’s image who are desperate to be known, to be named, to be respected and remembered. Let us pray:
For the Black lives stomped out by police brutality and white supremacy, for whom we shout “Say their name!” — from Breonna Taylor to Ahmaud Arbery, from Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland, from Michael Brown to George Floyd, we pray.
For the Black lives that have shaped our world, who have labored and lamented, invented and constructed, yet whose names are not printed in our history books — or whose names are shared only during Black History Month, the shortest month of the year — we pray.
For the trans person whose chosen name, whose true name, is rejected by the ones they love the most;
or who must keep their true self hidden to preserve their job, their home, their safety;
or whose very grave is marked by a name that is not theirs — the final insult in a world bent on destroying their dignity — we pray.
For the children crying out their parents’ names in ICE’s cells;
and for the over 26,000 human beings deported under the Biden-Harris administration thus far, we pray.
For those most isolated by this pandemic, who hunger to hear their name uttered by someone, anyone, we pray.
For those who are weary with applying for job after job, waiting for their name to be chosen from the pile, we pray.
For those who stand on street corners asking for money, asking for recognition that they too are human beings with a name, with dreams and griefs, with the Image of God glowing within them, we pray.
For the 500,000 and counting human beings killed in the US alone by this mishandled pandemic, whose names are printed in one inky blur, whose lives are unknown by any but those who loved them not as a faceless mass, but as parents, children, teachers, friends, we pray.
For all those desperately calling to Divinity under one of Their many names — Jesus, Allah, HaShem, Mother Earth, Great Spirit — we pray.
And finally, for the groanings and gratitudes, named and unnamed, of this congregation, we pray.
O God of many names, God the giver and restorer of names,
Ignite in us a burning urgency to
SAY THEIR NAMES,
to cherish their names,
to dig up the names
that white supremacy and all unjust powers would see buried.
O El Shaddai, the rain-bringer, the seed-tender, the nursing Mother,
come gently to each of your hurting children; whisper our own names back to us, reminding us of our worth.
Holy Spirit, we thank you for taking the achings and longings beyond words and groaning them out on our behalf. Comfort us, compel us, encourage and empower us, to be your hands and feet in this aching world today.
I wrote this pastoral prayer for Grace Presbyterian in Tuscaloosa, AL, for a Lenten service centered around Genesis 17:1-16 and Mark 8:27-38, with themes of God who names Themself and others; who seeks to be known by us just as She knows us.