204: PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed the totally unique Christian/Atheist blog where anything goes. It’s my personal polemic where I muse aloud about religion and the world. I hope you get something from it!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

In case this title is ambiguous, I should explain at the outset that it does not mean Christians praying for the conversion of Atheists. No way. It is a scrap book of reflections and meditations about the world and life. I happen to find them rather beautiful and moving poems, and I’d like to share them with you. (Check the Post ‘Jesus’s authentic words of prayer‘.)

Occasionally they will mention God: leave it in or delete it if you wish. The first prayer is written by that champion of immigrant labourers in the orchards of California, César Chávez. He seems to mention all three members of the trinity, though ‘Spirit’ could mean ‘spirit of hope’, ‘spirit of endurance’ or some such. I’m including it anyway.

Prayer #1: “Farm Worker Prayer” by César Chávez (1927-1993)

Show me the sufferings of the most miserable;
so I will know my people’s plight.

Free me to pray for others;
for you are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
so I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
for in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
so that I can work with other workers.

Bring forth song and celebration;
so that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
so that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
for they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us;
so we can change the world.

Amen.

Prayer #2: “Lord when did we see you?” by Vic Hummert

I was hungry and you helped me buy rice
while trying for a long term solution to my emptiness.

I was a stranger in a city where everybody is suspicious,
and you trusted me and put me at my ease.

I was unemployed, without clothes, food, money or security;
you helped me find a job and rebuild my life.

I was sick and unable to get into a hospital or see a doctor;
you tried to find me a hospital bed and a compassionate doctor who was more concerned about my health than about the money I did not have.

I was in trouble with the law for my mistakes
and you tried to defend me while encouraging me to change my ways;
as no lawyer came forward I lost and went to prison for a time
during which you came to visit me without judging me.

I was considered ‘low class’ by other folks
and you tried to give me status, face, and pride in myself.

In all these difficulties you never really succeeded.

You just tried and that enabled me to plod on for the moment.

You stood by me and tried.
That was all I needed to be myself in a place where I just existed.

You did these simple compassionate things until the day when all systems, institutions and hearts were changed into a new history.

Prayer #3: “To change the world” adapted from prayer of the Christian conference of Asia

To change the world we need groups of people
-who will be more courageous than cautious;
-who will not merely ‘comfort the afflicted’  but ‘afflict the comfortable’;
-who will not only love the world but will also judge the world;
-who will not only pursue peace but also demand justice;
-who will not remain silent when people are calling for a voice;
-who will not pass by on the other side when wounded humanity is waiting to be healed.

Prayer #4: “To hunger and thirst for justice” by Fr Edicio de la Torre (Philippines)

I have never been this hungry before
pain burning my guts, searing my back.

Food is doubly delicious
ikan bilis or curry ayam
gulai or asam pedas
daizhang and kenduri.

To starve after justice
to ache for it, like food,
frantic for life itself.

How long can men live without eating
two weeks or more, they say.
But would such be living
too weak to rise from sleep
To read the Bible and newspaper
to write with meaning and beauty
to share and master the earth
to sing in the sun?

How long can men live without justice?
Can we ask them to wait again
while we ponderously weigh issues
which are complex, we say, and take time
which cannot be rushed
because we fear to be one-sided
etcetera?

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER JUSTICE FOR THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED.

Prayer #5: God addresses the Israelites (Isa. 58:5-11)

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it to bend down his head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then…your righteousness shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard….
And the Lord…will make your bones strong.

(Source: Elsa Tamez “Bible of the Oppressed” (1982) p.76)

Prayer #6: “Overcoming Violence” – World Council of Churches

Give me a heart of poverty,
able to love and open up and
give myself to others.

Give me a heart of patience,
able to live and love in hope.

Give me a heart of peacefulness,
able to love and sow peace in the world.

Give me a heart of justice,
able to love and measure myself by
the standard of justice.

Give me a heart of mercifulness,
able to love and understand and
forgive others.

Give me a heart of sensitivity,
able to love and weep without
being discouraged.

Give me a heart of purity,
able to love and see God in everyone.

Give me a heart of strength,
able to love and be faithful unto death.

Give me a heart touched by the Gospel,
able to love.

(Source: Pax Christi)

Prayer #7:”What makes us human”

To give and not to take, that is what makes us human;
To serve and not to rule, that is what makes us human;
To help and not to crush, that is what makes us human;
To nourish and not to devour, that is what makes us human;
And if need be, to die and not to live, that is what makes us human;
Ideals and not deals, that is what makes us human;
Creed and not greed, that is what makes us human.

(paraphrase of Peter Maurin, US Catholic Worker.)

Prayer #8: alternative Serenity Prayer by Dave Andrews (wecan.be.org)

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change
and the courage to change the one I can
and the wisdom to know it is me.

Prayer #9: The International Prayer for Peace (ii)

Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.

Lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.

Lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace.

Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.

Let us dream together, pray together, work together,
to build one world of peace and justice for all.

Prayer #10: Alternative ‘Our Father’ by Canaan Banana (Methodist Minister and President of Zimbabwe in 1974)

Our Father which art in the ghetto,
Degraded is your name.
Thy servitude abounds,
Thy will is mocked as pie in the sky.

Teach us to demand
Our share of gold;
Forgive us our docility
As we demand our share of justice.

Lead us not into complicity,
Deliver us from our fears,
For ours is the sovereignty,
The power and the liberation,
For ever and ever, Amen.

Prayer #11: The Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hate that I may bring love,
Where there is offence that I may bring pardon,
Where there is discord that I may bring union,
Where there is error that I may bring truth,
Where there is doubt that I may bring faith,
Where there is despair that I may bring hope,
Where there is darkness that I may bring light,
Where there is sadness that I may bring joy,
O Master, make me not so much to be consoled as to console;
not so much to be loved as to love;
not so much to be understood as to understand;
for it is in giving that one receives;
it is in self-forgetfulness that one finds;
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned;
it is in dying that one finds eternal life.
(See alternative version #14)

Prayer #12: Pax Christi Daily Prayer (paxchristi.org.uk)

Thank you loving God
For the gift of life
For this wonderful world which we all share
For the joy of love and friendship
For the challenge of helping to build your kingdom.

Strengthen
My determination to work for a world of peace and justice
My conviction that, whatever our nationality or race, we are all global citizens, one in Christ;
My courage to challenge the powerful with the values of the Gospel
My commitment to find nonviolent ways of resolving conflict – personal, local, national and international
My efforts to forgive injuries and to love those I find it hard to love.

Teach me
To share the gifts you have given me
To speak out for the victims of injustice who have no voice
To reject the violence which runs through much of our world today.

Holy spirit of God
Renew my hope for a world free from the cruelty and evil of war, so that we may all come to share in God’s peace and justice.

Prayer #13: a Lao Tzu poem (he’s the founder of Daoism) (iii)

If there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
there must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
there must be peace in the heart.

Lao Tzu says it powerfully but it’s shorter and more powerful in reverse:

If there is to be peace in the heart,
we must create peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
we must create peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
we must create peace in the neighbourhoods.
If there is to be peace in the neighbourhoods,
there is no need for nations,
and there will be peace in the world.

Prayer #14:

Alternative version of Prayer of St Francis (#11) by Rev. Gretta Vosper p.252

As I live every day,
I want to be a channel for peace,
May I bring love where there is hatred
and healing where there is hurt;
joy where there is sadness
and hope where there is fear.
I pray that I may always try
to understand and comfort other people
as well as seeking comfort and understanding
from them.
Wherever possible, may I choose to be
a light in the darkness,
a help in times of need,
and a caring, honest friend.
And may justice, kindness, and peace
flow from my heart forever,
Amen.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Related Zingcreed Posts:
On surviving the Alpha course
Prayer and Meditation (See,Judge, Act, Review)
Prayer vs Crime – a total waste of time
Prayer vs meditation

Sources:
(i) Prayer #1: Tamez, Elsa “The scandalous story of James” Crossroad (2002) p.130
(ii) Howson, Chris p.26
(iii) Hebden, Keith “Seeking Justice. The radical compassion of Jesus”  Circle Books (2012) p.166

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