At a recent Wednesday Bible study group at my church, we spent time talking about what we would pray for if we really believed that God came to earth at Christmas to redefine justice, righteousness and peace.
I organized the group’s thoughts and wrote them down. What follows is our collective prayer:
God who comes to us at Christmas,
We honor you with our focused attention as we pray for your growing presence in us and in our world this Christmas season.
As we wait for your arrival, we remember the power you have to redefine our world. We pray that you will bring us new definitions of justice, righteousness and peace. We pray that we can receive and apply those definitions with hope, joy and love.
Lord, show us true justice. Show us the justice of the Bible, and help us understand how that justice is different from the world’s justice. Show us a justice marked by equity and fairness and compassion and mercy. Teach us that care for the vulnerable—the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the poor, the sick—is a central element of the justice represented in the manger of Christmas.
Open our hearts to the needs of others. Make us consistent bearers of your image, and give us eyes to see your image in everyone else, too. Give us the courage to represent you every day—even when it’s hard, even when it’s dangerous. Give us the courage to name injustice when we see it—racism, discrimination, bigotry and hatred. Give us compassion and empathy for people who are different than us.
We pray for justice in our nation and in our court systems. Raise up fair and honorable judges and prosecutors and representatives in our court system who seek and distribute justice evenly, impartially and equitably.
On this Christmas we pray not only for the world around us, but also for ourselves. We pray that you would lead each of us to new understandings of righteousness. We pray that you would change us. Change our hearts and our minds and our attitudes.
Help us find more space to focus on the needs of others. Give us a spirit of neighborliness and friendliness to share with all in our communities.
Make us more tolerant and more forgiving. Make us more accepting of differences. Help us to be people who listen to others, who pray for others, and who have the right words and the right helping hands for others.
And in all these things help us to overcome the fear and mistrust and selfishness that often prevents us from doing the good we know we should do.
As we wait for the arrival of your justice and righteousness, we do so with great hope: Hope for health and contentment and peace in our families and in our hearts. Hope for a renewed faith that reminds us we can trust in you no matter what. We wait with hope for balance and harmony among all people, and with hope for spiritual rejuvenation and vitality here and all over the world.
We pray for our church with hope, too. We pray with hope for spiritual and physical growth, with hope for the courage to speak together with a prophetic voice and with hope for the wisdom to know what to say.
We pray with hope for a continued and expanded ability to look after the marginalized and the poor in our community.
We pray for peace–for a new attitude and a new feeling in our world and in our hearts. We long for a peace that is more than the absence of hostility. We pray for a positive and active peace that itself represents the enactment of your justice in this world.
Help us find peaceful ways to express our differences.
Rid us of violence, anger and fear. Remind us that kindness doesn’t equal weakness. Help us create a world where tough exteriors are not required and where gentleness is celebrated and admired.
Help us to remember that our eternal security lies in you, that war is never in your will, and that one day you will reign on earth in peace upheld by your justice and your righteousness. We pray for that day to come.
Heavenly Father, even as we look toward an eternal future, we take joy in the assurance of your presence with us now. We pray with joy at our ability to be distributors and champions of your justice today. We pray with joy in our responsibility to reach out and speak out. We pray with joy in doing what is right. We pray with joy in our call to reach future generations for you. And with pray with joy in our salvation.
Fill us with love this Christmas–love for you and love for others as we passionately pursue your justice in our world and your righteousness in our lives. Give us love that lasts even when we don’t get our way. Give us love that endures through fear. Give us strength to love even when we don’t feel like loving. Give us love that helps us realize we always have more to give.
Help us remember that your love in us is only multiplied as we give it away. Give us a love that is as perfect and innocent and holy as the baby in the manger and a love that is as transformative and self-sacrificing as the Savior on the cross.
We pray with hope, joy and love for your justice, righteousness and peace to come to earth with Christ this Christmas.
May they and we be made perfect in your name, AMEN.