Scrolling through the list of celebrities who died in 2016 seems to take, depressingly, forever. There also were the personal losses and, for many, a political and cultural landscape that seems upside-down.
And those are just the personal and domestic challenges. Wars raged on around the globe and refugees, including children, died trying to escape them.
No wonder so many were ready for 2016 to take a hike.
But will 2017 be any better? That will become clear soon enough, but religious leaders say personal peace is available regardless of circumstances — as long as believers put spiritual things first and seek justice on behalf of the marginalized.
Some of those leaders put their thoughts into prayer form to share with Baptist News Global readers.
George Bullard, president of The Columbia Partnership
God of grace and God of glory help our church be a holy witness for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. May we work for policies of governments and world councils such as the United Nations that recognize the plight of billions of people throughout the world. May we pray for our national and world leaders that they might be impacted by the unapologetic nudging of the Holy Spirit backed up by our own actions. In recognition of the Prince of Peace we pray. Amen.
Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry
My prayer for us all as we move into this New Year is that we will invest in some serious decluttering. May we shed those things that paralyze us and keep us from living out our call to compassion. May we delete from our lives those things that steal our hope. May instead the joy and contentment that God gives become our constant companion.
Jessica Hearne, Cooperative Baptist field personnel serving at Grace and Main Fellowship, Danville, Va.
Father God, we ask You to open our eyes to Your presence in the world around us. When we see those of our brothers who are experiencing hunger, homelessness, sickness, or imprisonment, we pray that we will see Your face and will be moved to invite them and You into our homes and lives. We pray that we may be united against oppression, and that as Your people we will seek goodness, justice, and mercy for all of Your beloved.
Scarlette Jasper, CBF field personnel serving with Together for Hope in Somerset, Ky.
I come to you with praise and petition. Thank you for your grace and mercy. I come to you on behalf of those who are afraid of what the future holds. I lift up concerns over healthcare, immigration, education, economic hardship, conflict and violence. I lift up global concerns of instability and crisis. We are all children of God and pray that we have open hearts and minds to the needs of others. Amen
Nora Lozano, professor of theological studies and director of the Latina Leadership Institute at Baptist University of the Americas
My prayer is for peace that is rooted in justice and love. A personal peace that involves spiritual, physical, emotional, and financial peace. A communal peace that involves the ecclesial, political, economic, and social aspects of our global communities.
George Mason, senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas
Almighty and all loving God,
We ask your blessing upon our church, community and national leaders in the coming year. Give them wisdom to discern the wind of your Spirit and courage to follow it in the face of all who would thwart your will and way.
Teach us to act on behalf of our neighbor, for in doing so we too will prosper, even if for a time we suffer. Ignite in us a boundless love that defeats fear and selfishness. May the peace of Christ rule our hearts and homes, as we work for a more just and merciful world.
Starlette McNeill, associate pastor of Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Md.
God, our Neighbor, who moved into the womb of a woman just to be closer to us, we confess that You know us from the inside out. As we make resolutions to become new people, remind us that this is the goal of Christ in us. Carrying Christ will change the shape and nature of who we are. Help us to make room for You and the confounding forms by which You enter the world: a baby, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked and the sick (Matthew 25.31-46). Tell us again that You are with all of us in and out of political season, that You are only one door down from us, that it is You knocking at our own, asking, “Do you have any room?”
Laura Stephens-Reed, clergy coach and congregational consultant based in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
God of — and yet beyond — all time, 2016 was a difficult year for many. Sure things proved otherwise.
Unimaginable things came to pass.
As we begin a new trip around the sun, grant us courage to acknowledge our vulnerability and honor others. Give us curiosity to act boldly with deep understanding. Infuse us with resilience to resist forces that deny your image in your creations. And at every moment, may we place our hope in you.
These prayers are offered in the name of Christ, who came to us in human days so that we would know everlasting life, and by the counsel of the Advocate, who accompanies us at all times. Amen.