Hear Our Prayer! Make Us Agents of Your Change
By: David Philippart
As we begin our Season of Social Justice, it’s timely to think about the prayers of the faithful at Mass. In these prayers—written each week by a member of our community—we bring to God the needs of the church and the world as we have come to know them during the previous week. (So today we prayed for Syria and all the Middle East, South Sudan and all Africa, hotspots now.) And in these prayers, we begin to bear one another’s burdens. We begin to help shoulder the crosses of war, oppression, injustice, suffering, sickness—even death itself–that are crushing others. Some for whom we pray are so bowed down they cannot pray for themselves. We cry out for them, standing with them. And as we sing out in response to each petition, we take this risk: We open ourselves up to being sent out as agents of change, part of God’s answer to that prayer. The prayers of the faithful are powerful and profound. Let’s look at them in context.
Mass begins by God drawing us together. Singing that first song, the Body of Christ is joined and all its members united, reconnected. A single voice is now raised in praise of the One who made us and loves us. After some brief rites that solidify our gathering (the sign of the cross, the penitential act, the Gloria, and the opening prayer), we proclaim and actively listen to God’s Word. Our priest breaks open that Word with preaching. The Word proclaimed and preached gives us a picture both of how things are and how things will be; a vision of the mess humanity too often makes of things, and a way forward that the Holy One provides. God’s Word always demands a response. So together, we respond. First, we profess our faith to one another, promising to stay true to the promises we made at baptism. Then, precisely because we are baptized, we stand for the prayers of the faithful and sing out to God: O Lord, hear our prayer!
The lector proposes a focus for our prayer called for by current events seen through the lens of scripture and urges us to pray. So today: For truce where there is trouble, for reconciliation where there is rupture, for communion where there is chaos. . . . Then we pray. With all our might we pray. Together we sing to God: Hear our prayer! We repeat this process six or seven times. What impertinence! No “please.” We make an urgent demand to the Living God, not a polite request. But that’s OK. We are speaking up for those in need. And we follow Jesus, who teaches us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread! Forgive us our trespasses…Deliver us from evil.”
We pray the prayers of the faithful standing. We are standing by those for whom we pray. We are standing ready to be sent by God in answer to our prayers. We are standing up for the vision of community and communion that God’s Word just gave us. Here we are! Send us!And send us, God does. But only after strengthening us for the work that lies ahead by feeding us from the banquet of Christ’s sacrifice. It is by eating and drinking the Body and the Blood that we gain the strength to become bread broken, wine poured out, gift freely given to this world in sore need. O Lord, hear our prayer!
David Philippart is Old Saint Patrick’s Liturgy Director. You can reach him at email@example.com or 312.831.9367.