We think of prayer as, mostly, asking for what we need and want, for ourselves and others. God sees it differently. God receives prayers of every kind as offering, of self and world. This offering comes, as we say to conclude many prayers, “through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Jesus joins our prayer to his own self-offering, and thereby presents us to God both for judgment and for mercy.
We, in turn, receive both: judgment, which causes all that is hidden to be revealed in God’s sight; and mercy, which claims us, precisely because our souls have been laid bare, for God’s own work in the world.
Some have told me lately that they are unable or unwilling to pray for President Trump and his administration. I myself have been able to do so only rarely, and with difficulty. This isn’t the first time people of faith have faced this challenge, but it feels uniquely acute just now.
From time to time God calls us away from saying our prayers to prayer itself, an explicit offering: “We lift up our nation to you, author of judgment and source of mercy. Set and hold before our eyes harm done by actions taken and words spoken in our name. Convict us of our shared complicity, by commission or omission, in these. Then, in your mercy, show us ways to work, with conviction leavened by humility, for the healing of the nation we love. Receive this offering through Jesus Christ, your Son, the one, full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for our sins, and the sins of the whole world. Amen.”