I was invited to lead the invocation for Call to Renewal’s Pentecost 2004 prayer breakfast in Washington, DC, on May 25. At the breakfast, John Perkins and Susan Pace Hamill were honored for their work on behalf of the poor.
God, our Creator, redeemer, strength, hope, and friend, we begin this important day together realizing what a miracle it is to pray. We are little people on a tiny planet linked to a nondescript star on the fringes of a typical galaxy dancing in a swirl of billions of galaxies expanding from the original point at which you said, “Let there be light.” We are tiny creatures, frail, fallible, often silly and wrong, a mix of chemistry and memory and miracle. You care for the whole universe, yet we fail to care for ourselves and our neighbors very well.
When we pray, we practice our belief that you, a being beyond our highest capacities to imagine, actually care, listen, and respond to us. So we pause and ponder as we begin this day with prayer – not as a formality, but as a sign and a wonder and practice of faith.
We are here today, praying in your presence, with a shared concern. Many of our neighbors are in need. They lack money. They lack food. They lack medicine. They lack housing. They lack safety. They lack the dignity of work. Meanwhile, our leaders seem too quickly to have forgotten our neighbors in need – believing, it would seem, that the clenched fist is more your instrument than the outstretched hand and open arms. So, Lord, our neighbors in need are the last item on the political agenda, the least of the concerns of the powerful, lost in a flood of other concerns. But you, Lord, are the God of the last, the lost, and the least. Jesus revealed you to the world as the God who remembers the forgotten and joins them in their pain. You are the God who gives yourself to us in our need.
And so we pray to you today. Help us as we honor our brother, Dr. John M. Perkins, who shares your concern for our neighbors in need. Like the prophet Amos, he came from humble beginnings to let justice roll down.
And help us as we honor our sister, Professor Susan Pace Hamill, who also shares your concern for our neighbors in need. Like the patriarch Joseph, she has used a position of prestige to speak up for those in need.
As we honor them, we ask you today that we together will be your agents to answer the prayers of the last, the lost, and the least. We ask that you will inspire in us today the resolve and courage, the compassion and passion, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. We ask that our hearts will not only by the power of your Spirit be strangely warmed, but that we will also be profoundly transformed.
May the result of today be that we will ourselves be inspired and empowered, so as to inspire and empower others, to do the simple good works of which your Son spoke, telling us that if we would do them, Your light would shine in us so that the world would stop … think again … and glorify you, God, our Father, in the name of Jesus, your Son, in the glorious and creative Pentecost-power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.