This is the congregational prayer I wrote for Sunday morning, November 5, 2017 at Rochester (NY) Christian Reformed Church. The first draft was written out longhand in my journal. I figure if it isn't first of all my prayer it is unlikely to be anyone else's prayer either.

Our Father in heaven,

Here we are again, Lord, gathered in you name to praise you and hear your word. Thank you for this new day.

Later in the service we will sing...

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

O Lord, that's a sobering thought. I am not, we are not, always all that loving. The church is the only army that shoots its own wounded? Yes, sadly, we've been there, done that. And even when we get that part right, when we love and support and build each other up in our own body of believers, we Christians can be remarkably hateful to people outside our circle who have the audacity to be not like us. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love.

It is a sobering thought. It is a grace-filled thought. In spite of our bumbling and worse, you, dear God Almighty, somehow manage to pull it off. In this is love, not that we loved you but that you loved us, and sent your Son to die for us and bring us to life.

So here we are, Lord, bumbling along in your service, learning a step at a time how to love you by loving and serving the world and, especially, the people, that you created and care for and love beyond anything we could have figured out. How marvelous your grace, and how marvelous your sense of humor, that you call us to do your work in your world.

Today is World Hunger Sunday, but even as we think of that, our thoughts and hearts are arrested by troubles much closer to home. We grieve the sexual abuse and the human suffering all around us as we hear of yet one more man of power, influence and wealth revealed as a sexual predator with a long and brutal history of violence against women. And we hear the local story of yet one more woman murdered by a jilted boyfriend. How long, O Lord, will we walk in the way of hate? How long must the victims of violence and oppression cry out for justice? How long will the strong trample on the weak? Lord, have mercy on us and hear our prayer.

And how are we to walk in love? How are we, who know your love, to raise our daughters and, yes, our sons, to love and respect and value each other and themselves? Help us, O Lord, break the cycle of violence in our families and other relationships. This one hits us really close to home. How well we know. How well I know.

Today is World Hunger Sunday. Today we bring our Peter Fish and other gifts to you for the sake of those who hunger for their daily bread and clean water and shelter. Whether we ourselves have little or much, make us generous stewards of the good things you have given us. Thank you for World Renew and other such organizations that put their hearts and their smarts and their bodies into the work of hunger relief and the relief of the oppression and violence that is so often at the root of the lack of food, water, and shelter. Strengthen their love. Protect them from evil.

Help us individually and as a nation to put aside our lust for blood and our love affair with violence. Give us individually and as a nation the courage and hope to lay aside our saber-rattling and our preparation for war and instead to commit ourselves to building for peace and justice. The challenges are great, but you, O Lord, are greater. We declare with joy and trust, "Our world belongs to God."

We pray for President Trump as he begins an extended Asian trip. Give him wisdom, discretion, and love. Help us remember that following the Lord of love we are not allowed to hate anyone, no matter how delicious it might seem.

So here we are, Lord, trying to serve you in your world, a world that also includes this one particular body of believers right here at Rochester Christian Reformed Church.

We are thankful for the ways we see you working in and through us.

(local stuff goes here)

We bring our concerns, our worries, to you.

(local stuff goes here)

All praise to the Father, from whom all things come,
and all praise to Christ Jesus, his only Son,
and all praise to the Spirit, who makes us all one.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

In the love of Jesus Christ, your Son, Amen.