Prayer for the Victims of the Tsunami

A prayer of lament offered in response to the Japanese tsunami tragedy in 2004. It can be adapted for other times of natural disaster.

"Great God of new beginnings, we praise you for your faithfulness in superintending our lives in and through our ever changing and changeable seasons. By a miracle of compassion and empathy, you understand us and stay with us when we turn the pages of the calendar even though you yourself exist without the need for those temporal markers by which we define our lives and the history of this world. But it is finally good news to us, dear Lord, that you do not change. Because that means that neither do your promises change, neither is your love for us fickle and fragile, neither are your plans for the cosmos’ bright future ever in peril. From everlasting to everlasting you are the sovereign God of all creation, and for that faithfulness and constancy we thank and laud your holy name.

Deep within each of our hearts, Father, we pine for a still center, for a fixed point that does not move. Your Word tells us that you have placed eternity within our very hearts, and we sense the pricking of that longing for the eternal, especially during those times here on this planet when all around us seems to be shaking loose and coming apart at the seams. We all yearn for something, for Someone, who cannot be shaken, who can hold us when we are shaken, whose desires for renewal are never derailed or set aside based on external events or unforeseen circumstances. That is who you are for us, sacred God: the one to whom we cling in the faith-filled belief that even when death takes us from our loved ones and from this world that we also know and love, death cannot take us from you.

Still, death pains us to our core, Father. We know you understand. You lost a child once, too. Despite our hope and belief that death is not final in the longest possible run, in the near-term it hurts us and wounds our hearts, bruising our spirits in ways that never fully heal. This week, we have wept and mourned over people we don’t know in far-off lands most of us have never even seen in person. We’ve also shaken our heads, wondering why this must happen to people already living on the edge of subsistence. We’ve pondered the seeming cruelty of killer waves crashing into people on a clear-blue day when there was not a cloud in the sky and only the faintest hint of a breeze. We’ve wondered frankly, precious Lord, why such things happen in a world we believe you ultimately hold in your hands.

But we know that we’ll not get to the bottom of the whys and wherefores of such a catastrophe, even if we do try to parse it all according to your providence. Instead, what we cling to in faith is that you remain in charge; you can still be present in the midst of great grief and disaster. So we beg this day for you to break through people’s disbelief and horror to show your face of grace. Bless all those who are working so hard right now to bring relief and aid. Whether it’s as simple as handing out a bottle of clean drinking water or something as ambitious and planning even now to help people re-build whole villages, in all those places where hands and hearts are opened to help a fellow human being in need, give your blessing, dear God. Yes, even in lands where many do not know or worship your name, give an increase in your divine presence so that your people can show forth the God whose love knows no boundaries, whose desire is for all to flourish, and whose hope is that all will one day enter into the bright kingdom that is yet to come.

We pray especially for parents who have lost children, sometimes all of their children in one dreadful fell swoop. The bodies of those little ones pain us as much as anything we’ve seen in this week that has been so chock-full of awful images. But the pain on the faces of the moms and dads has wrenched us still more. You, great God of our Savior Jesus Christ, you who also once lost a child, comfort those whose loss cannot be replaced, whose grief must not be lightly assuaged, but who need strength to go on even so.

… (Prayers specific to your community can be included at this point)…

Now as we begin this New Year on notes of worship, liturgy, and praise, receive our worship as we bring it to you in Jesus’ name and by the power of your own Spirit, Father God. When we become distracted, gently pull our focus back and forgive us for minds that are too busy for our own good sometimes. When we have passing thoughts that we are ashamed to own, especially here in your house, then forgive us for that and again help us here to contemplate your face. And when we leave at the end of this day’s fellowship and worship, may we do so strengthened and equipped to keep on giving you alone the glory in all that we do. Through Jesus name we pray it, Amen."

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