My colleague, Rev. Mitch Todd has a great devotion/essay entitled about that often abused and maligned term, “Thoughts and Prayers.” I encourage you to take a look.
In the face of another act of gun violence, James Martin, S.J. has shared a prayer that I find useful. I’m reprinting it here so that you can read it without the interruptions that appear on the original site.
I come before you,
after another shooting.
I am sad, God.
So I ask you
to receive into your loving care the souls of those who were killed,
to care for those who were wounded or hurt in any way,
to console the family members and friends of those who died or were wounded,
to strengthen the hands of the rescue workers, medical professionals and caregivers
I pray too for the shooter, as I must as a Christian.
All this makes me inexpressibly sad, God.
But I know that the sadness I feel is your sadness.
It is the same sadness your son expressed
when he wept over the death of
his friend Lazarus.
I am tired, God.
I’m tired of the unwillingness to see this as an important issue.
I’m tired of those in power who work to prevent any real change.
I’m tired of those who say that gun violence can’t be reduced.
All this makes me tired.
But I know that the tiredness I feel is your tiredness.
It’s the same tiredness that Jesus felt after his own struggles against injustice
that led him to fall asleep on the boat with his disciples.
I am angry, God.
I’m angry at the seeming powerlessness of our community to prevent this.
I’m angry at the selfish financial interests who block change.
I’m angry that these shootings happen at all.
But I know that this anger is your anger
It’s the same anger Jesus felt when he overturned the tables in the Temple,
angry that anyone would be taken advantage of in any way.
Help me see in these emotions your own desire for change.
Help me see in these feelings as the way that you move me to act.
Help me see in my reactions your pushing me to do something.
Because I know this is the way you move people to action.
And I know that you desire action.
For Jesus did not stand by while people were being hurt.
He plunged into their lives.
So help me to answer these questions:
How can I help?
How can I fight against gun violence?
How can I urge my political leaders to enact change?
How can I help people understand that this is
an issue about life?
I am sad over the loss of life,
tired of excuses for the loss of life,
and angry that we are paralyzed by the loss of life.
Turn my sadness into compassion.
Turn my tiredness into advocacy.
Turn my paralysis into the freedom to act.
to be compassionate,
and to act,
as your son did,
Almighty God. 
 James Martin, S.J., “Sad, Tired and Angry: A Prayer in the Face of Gun Violence,” America Magazine, October 02, 2017, accessed October 02, 2017, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/10/02/sad-tired-and-angry-prayer-face-gun-violence.
A prayer appropriate for Labor Day, attributed across the internet to the sixteenth-century theologian and reformer John Calvin:
“My God, Father and Savior, since you have commanded us to work in order to meet our needs, sanctify our labor that it may bring nourishment to our souls as well as to our bodies.
Make us constantly aware that our efforts are worthless unless guided by your light and by your hand.
Make us faithful to the particular tasks for which you have bestowed upon us the necessary gifts, taking from us any envy or jealousy at the vocations of others.
Give us a good heart to supply the needs of the poor, saving us from any desire to exalt ourselves over those who receive our bounty.
And if you should call us into greater poverty than we humanly desire, save us from any spirit of defiance or resentment, but rather let us graciously and humbly receive the bounty of others.
Above all, may every temporal grace be matched by spiritual grace, that in both body and soul we may live to your glory.”
Here’s an ancient Jewish prayer offered by a Rabbi at Ministry Matters (a United Methodist Website) as a response to seeing the eclipse:
“Blessed are You, Eternal God, Maker of all the works of creation.”
I’ve been monitoring coverage of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. I don’t think I need to say this, but any rally that includes the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis is not in alignment with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Please join me in praying that the Gospel might be heard and hearts and minds might be changed.
I’m re-reading When Spiritual But Not Religious is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church in preparation for the Breakfast Club this coming Saturday. In the chapter on prayer, Lillian Daniel talks about the need not only to pray for the high minded things that we would be happy share with other people but also to pray for the little things that are unique to us, the prayers that we suppress because we feel that they are unworthy.
That kind of thinking, that reluctance to ask God for what we really want, is arrogance posing as humility. It seems humble to not ask God for our own desires, and to put other larger matters first. But doing that seems to imply we have power in all this. As if by asking God to cure diabetes before asking for a raise, we might actually affect God’s priorities. Do we honestly think that if no one asked for anything trivial, and everyone got focused on world peace, God would finally see that we had reached some quota and say, “Right, now that four billion and one people have asked for it, I will make it happen. But don’t anybody ask for a cottage by a lake right now, or I’ll get distracted.” 
There is a fail-safe system built into prayer. Prayer is not the monkey’s paw.  God’s not going to do something that not in our best interest just because we were stupid enough to ask for it. Lillian continues:
Sorry, but I just don’t think our prayer requests have that kind of power. So why pray then? Prayer is about connecting with God, about having a relationship with our divine creator. God desires that with us, and because God loves us so much, God actually cares about our trivial wants, our big dreams, and our petty grievances. This is humbling news indeed. We can come to God with anything, and God will work with it. 
So ask away. Take whatever you have to God in prayer and let God work with it and on you.
 Lillian Daniel, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church (Grand Central Pub, 2013), 39-40.
 “The Monkey’s Paw,” Wikipedia, July 22, 2017, accessed July 27, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkey%27s_Paw.
 Lillian Daniel, 40.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), the German theologian executed by the Nazis for his role in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, prayed the following prayer.
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray,
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
but with you there is light;
I am lonely;
but with you there is help;
I am restless,
but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness,
but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me. …
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me so to live now
that I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring
Your name be praised. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer as quoted by Jonathan Aitken, Prayers for People under Pressure (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 190.
Hat Tip: Rev. Amy Lippoldt
Confirmation just started. Please be in prayer for our 2017 confirmands: Braden Adams, Sam Burton, Jack Graefe, Beth Holmes Nick Holmes, and Miller Unruh.
There is a Wesleyan tradition of “Watchnight” services on New Year’s Eve which often took the form of a Covenant Renewal Service. The United Methodist Hymnal offers the following prayer in that tradition:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
We’re not having a “Watchnight” Covenant Renewal Service, but I would encourage you to reflect on the prayer and the invitation nonetheless. For a New Year’s resolution, one could certainly do worse.
As many of you may know, Ellis Johnson is in the pediatric ICU at the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas for carbon monoxide poisoning. We are told the next 24 hours will be crucial, and we invite you to pray for Ellis, his family, and his friends. If you desire to pray in the sanctuary it is open and available.