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Praying for/about Osama bin Laden?

May 3, 2011

In our Episcopal tradition, we are asked by our Book of Common Prayer to offer prayers every time the Eucharist is celebrated with intercession for certain things.  This part of the service is called the Prayers of the People.  In the BCP, six example forms are given, but you are not required to use any of those forms – they are just examples to be used if you wish.  Every Episcopalian is likely intimately familiar with at least one of these forms – for me, it is form III and form VI, the two most commonly used forms at the church where I grew up.

If you don’t use the forms provided, you have to have prayers that cover or address certain categories (BCP, p. 359).  They are:

  1. The Universal Church, its members, and its mission;
  2. The Nation and all in authority;
  3. The welfare of the world;
  4. The concerns of the local community;
  5. Those who suffer and those in any trouble;
  6. The departed

At St. George’s we draw our Prayers of the People from an ecumenical book which has prayers written for each Sunday, drawing themes from the lectionary readings of the day.  They don’t always cover all six of those categories, and so sometimes I have to adjust or add to them.  It’s requirement #6 that I am most interested in today.

Each Sunday we pray for those who have died by name.  Most of the time these are people known to our congregation.  Some of the time, these are locally, nationally, or even internationally known persons.  So, should we include Osama bin Laden’s name on that list this week?  That is the big question.

My knee jerk thought is, “No way!”  But then there is that whole, “bless those who curse you, bless and do not curse, ” and “pray for your enemies” thing.  Which causes my other knee to jerk the other way and say, “Absolutely!  It’s the Christian thing to do!”

Then I remember when we included Saddam Hussein’s name in the prayers at my former church and the person assigned to lead those prayers could not/refused to finish them.  After service there was a minor row that was resolved peaceably and with good feeling finally shared by all.  I don’t remember if that intercessor was pre-warned or not about what they were going to be asked to say and why, and that might have been part of the cause of the shock.  I couple that with the fact that this Sunday is both Youth Sunday (at our church) and Mother’s Day (in America).  It seems like there are better things to be focusing our prayers on.

But I cannot ignore what has happened, especially in something as important as the prayers of the people.  We have to acknowledge what has happened, our feelings – as mixed and conflicted as they might be – and how we as a Christian people are called to respond.  So, I have drafted or adapted the following series of brief intercessions to include in the Prayers of the People this Sunday that I hope both acknowledge what has happened and our corporate feelings (all of them, good and bad) about it.  They leave out Osama bin Laden’s name, but I think the point will be fairly clearly made.

That all those who have been victims of violence, especially terrorism, may know the peace of Christ let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, hear our prayer.

For our enemies, that they, with us may be led from prejudice to truth, and may be delivered from hatred, cruelty, and revenge, let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, hear our prayer.

For our President, Barack Obama, and for all leaders of nations, that they may be guided by wisdom and love, let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, hear our prayer.

What do you think?

If you’re not a St. Georgian, how is your church going to handle this?  I’d love to know.
Fr. Ryan+

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2011 3:40 pm

    I like it. Very nice. I can’t help but imagine inserting OBL’s name in the prayers without prior acknowledgement will break the atmosphere of prayer and will, instead, create confusion.

  2. June A Jaquith permalink
    May 3, 2011 4:32 pm

    Very nicely none.

  3. Maureen Krouse permalink
    May 3, 2011 5:34 pm

    Very nicely said. I like it and can “accept/handle” it as part of the week’s Prayers.

  4. Christina Webster permalink
    May 4, 2011 8:49 am

    I think they’re good – Sydney had mixed feelings about the death of Osama. She commented on the way everyone was celebrating the death, and wasn’t so sure that was a good thing … made me proud that she was taking a multi-dimensional look at it.

  5. Allison Marcus permalink
    May 4, 2011 9:27 am

    OMG as I would type if I was tweeting this… your solution to this conundrum is wonderful. Since hearing of the death of bin Laden, I have been praying but at times I was not sure what I was praying for or about… I knew my Christian response should be all the things you mentioned in your commentary, but I wasn’t sure how to put my feelings into words. I am proud that our government took the time and effort even for this despicable human being to see that his remains were handled in accordance with the Islamic law he professed to follow. I can only hope that his Muslim brothers notice this. Thank you for the thought, time and effort you took to find such an elegant solution.

  6. Margaret Genter permalink
    May 5, 2011 9:39 am

    Fr Ryan, your wording seems elequent and so appropriate to me. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to think through this, the sixth point of our Prayers of the People. Have been considering this today with my Mom, who is also a lifelong Episcopalian. Shows we can never stop learning. We are eager to see how it is handled this week at her home church.

  7. Lois MacNaughton permalink
    May 5, 2011 11:34 am

    Looking forward to reading future blogs!

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