Every year on Remembrance Sunday we have an opportunity to pray for our nation. Precisely how we do so is left to our own creativity.
My own practice has been to begin the act of remembrance by asking the congregation to sing Isaac Watts’ wonderful paraphrase of Psalm 90, ‘Our God our help in ages past’. I would argue that even those churches who sing almost exclusively modern songs , should on this occasion sing this old hymn. It is part of our Christian heritage.
Then we move on to look forward to the coming of the kingdom of God, when peace will reign, and war will be no more. The words of Micah 4.1-4 are particularly apt:
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s temple shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”
From looking forward we turn to look back. At this point I ask the congregation to stand and for two minutes remember in silence before God all who have lived and died in the service of others – and in particular, all those who have given their lives in the service of this country.
When the silence is over we turn to pray for God’s blessing on our world. The following prayer fits the occasion well:
Our Father God, we thank you for all who have lived and died in the service of others. In particular we thank you for those who have made the supreme sacrifice for us in time of war. We pray that the offering of their lives may not have been in vain. By your grace enable us to dedicate ourselves anew to the cause of justice, freedom and peace; and give us the wisdom and strength to build a better world, for the honour and glory of your name.
As on this day we look back and remember with gratitude those who died in time of war, so also we look around and remember with compassion the many who still suffer as a result of war. We pray for the injured and the disabled, for the mentally distressed, and for those whose faith in God and in others has been weakened or destroyed. We pray for the homeless and the refugees, for those who are hungry, and for all who have lost their livelihood and security. We pray for those who mourn their dead, those who have lost loved ones – and especially for those who have no hope in Christ to sustain them in their grief. O God of love, make yourself known to them. Comfort them and give them your peace.
We pray too for peace among the nations. Guide the leaders of this and every nation into the paths of peace. We long for the day when nations shall no longer prepare for war; when instead of trying to destroy one another nations will begin to understand one another. O Lord our God, you meant us to live as brothers and sisters. Take from us all hatred and suspicion, all fear and distrust. Help us to live together freely and in obedience to your laws.
Then after we have sung a final hymn or song, I end the service with a benediction based on Phil 4.7 followed by the blessing:
May the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding and of far more worth than human reasoning, keep guard over your heart and thoughts, through Christ Jesus our Lord. And so may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, remain and rest upon us all. Amen.
Clearly there is no one way of praying for the nation. Each church is different, and rightly so. Yet in spite of our differences, it is important that at this time of the year we do remember and ask God to bless us and the rest of his world with deep and abiding peace.