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Guest Blog: A Lenten Prayer

By February 24, 2016 7 Comments

I was actually planning on writing a post today, but I kept hearing about the prayer my dear friend and colleague, Jane Zwart, had offered at her church recently.  It seems to me we can never have too much help with praying, especially when the prayer is as beautiful written as this one.  So I share it with you today. –JLH


“A Lenten Prayer,” by Jane Zwart

Dear God,
It is Lent, and we wait on you for our salvation.
It is Lent, and Lent always casts in a starker light just how much is waited to be healed.

Then again, the things that seem never to change or never to change enough are there, too, adding to our clamor for redemption.
The prisons are there, crowded with inmates made in your likeness.
The war rooms are there, and enough bombs to obliterate us.
The hospitals are there, still doing brisk business.

And on the edges of war-torn countries, rafts—and even the least seaworthy one will pass for a lifeboat with those tormented enough to climb aboard.
And in favelas, women suddenly afraid because all it would take to damage the child that any one of them carries is a mosquito bite.
And under patriotic bunting, big voices, but too little by way of wisdom, of humility, of charity.

Food lines keep forming in refugee camps and school parking lots.
Dispatchers keep sending out EMTs and police and firefighters.
And we keep begrudging you our first fruits and calling our sins necessities or accidents.

Yes, so much is waiting to be healed, and you are our only salvation.

So we pray for you to rain justice down.
Tend to those in Flint whose tap water is poisonous.  As for those responsible: inspire them to repent, and guard them from despair.  And make us who number neither among the afflicted nor the responsible altogether generous.

We pray to you to mend the sick and injured, some of whom we know by name, but almost all of whom we do not.
Please, dear God, use miracles and scientists. Use doctors and nurses and use phenomena they cannot explain. And dispatch us to hospital bedsides. Dispatch us to our knees.

We pray for peace between and within nations. We pray for peace in the Church, for peace in denominations and congregations. We pray, too, for ourselves—especially that you will continue to call us, friends of Jesus Christ, to the truth of the gospel.

And we pray that the gospel cross this earth relentlessly, that it be—everywhere—proclaimed and embodied, taught and translated.

All in all, we pray just for this: redemption.
And maybe all the more fervently in Lent.

But we are an Easter people, too, and we see you at work even when it is dark.
So how could we not also come to you with thanks and praise?

God, we praise you because we know that our sin cannot inoculate us against your love.  We praise you because we know that our grief does not make us immune to the resurrection.

And we thank you because this imperfect, impermanent life swarms with beauty. And with joy.
We thank you for clothes warm out of the dryer, for ripe fruit in winter, for kids’ asymmetrical valentines.
We thank you for the dear ones who prop us up. And for strangers who startle us with kindnesses.
We thank you for new life and long life.
We thank you for Lent and the patience it teaches. We thank you, sometimes, despite ourselves. Amen.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.


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