I own a book, The Book of Common Prayer, which I pick up every so often. It’s a contemporary version of the prayers believers have said for five hundred years. What I love about The Book of Common Prayer is in its name: common. The prayers are meant to be communal, like the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus shared with us. We say the Lord’s Prayer together even if we’re alone; it’s built into the language of our Father, our daily bread. In the same way, we say common prayers communally.
A few weeks ago I opened the book and was struck by the specificity and relevance of the day’s prayer. It opens with a simple request:
Free us, O Lord, from fear: so we can live in peace.
The liturgy continues with a quote from Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador:
Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.
Wow. The peace Romero envisions isn’t the absence of conflict; it’s the flourishing of all people. It is dynamic, generous, and wildly inclusive. This prayer asks for freedom from fear, but not for our own comfort. Our freedom should move us to actively create peace. In other words, we’re freed to set others free.
This prayer seems particularly relevant today, doesn’t it? As we hear stories of refugees fleeing to Europe, of black lives being taken, and of politicians ostracizing certain people groups, we have a choice. We always have a choice. We can listen to the stories and feel fear, or we can pray for freedom from fear in order to generate peace. And the good news is that we don’t have to pray alone—common prayer is a great place to start.
The liturgy closes with a prayer that is both timely and essential:
Lord, keep us from fearfully persecuting the innocent among us. When we are tempted to use the cultural difference of our neighbors as excuses for injustice, convict us of our error. Keep us from turning difference into discrimination. Amen.
By Annelise Jolley