Praying from Ascension to Pentecost

Luke reminds us this morning that the apostles, along with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers, gathered together after Jesus’ ascension to pray for the fulfillment of his promise to send the Holy Spirit, a gift that would enable them to remain united in their witness to Jesus’ resurrection and his Lordship over all creation. Although we will not be as devoted as they were, who prayed together for ten days, we, too, are gathered together here in our own holy place for a brief hour of prayer with the same confidence that our prayers will be answered with a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit.

And there is much that we can and should pray for today, trusting in God to respond to those needs as only he can.

Last week I spent two nights watching the four-hour epic of Gone with the Wind for the first time. Especially haunting for me was the scene in which Scarlett O’Hara searches frantically for her family doctor, who is even more desperately attempting to minister to the countless number of wounded and dying confederate soldiers, stretching as far as the eye can see, on a broad, red-clay boulevard of Atlanta. When she finds him, he refuses to abandon the misery and human carnage all around him in order to attend to Scarlett’s cousin, Melanie Hamilton, who lies in her bed in her home in labor to deliver the life of her first child into the tragedy of our national nightmare.

This is the weekend when, in the aftermath of our civil war, in which 620,000 soldiers died in order to forge a more perfect union, we remember them and all those who have subsequently died in the service of our country. Let us pray.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give you thanks for all those your servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them your mercy and the light of your presence, that the good work which you have begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

This is also the day we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our incorporation as the town of Lake Wales, we who are situated between Johnson and Bullard Streets, named for two of our founding fathers. Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth, and especially our own city of Lake Wales. Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We have also arrived at a moment when more and more neighborhoods and communities must now restrict our use of water for our lawns and for the washing of our vehicles because of the lack of rainfall. Let us pray.

O God, heavenly Father, who by your Son Jesus Christ has promised to all those who seek your kingdom and its righteousness all things necessary to sustain their life: Send us, we entreat you, in this time of need, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth, to our comfort and to your honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And in just a few minutes we will baptize Cooper Henry McWhorter. Let us continue to pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, you desire that everyone who follows you shall be born again by water and the Spirit: Remember your child Cooper Henry who is soon to be baptized in your Name.

By his name, Lord: Grant that you will know him, and call him to a life of service. Grant that he may become the person you created him to be. Grant that he may be written for ever in your Book of Life. Amen.

Through the water of his baptism, Lord: Grant that he may be united with you in your death. Grant that he may receive forgiveness for all his sins. Grant that he may have power to endure, and strength to have victory in the battle of life. Amen.

As a member of your Church, Lord: Grant that he may rise to a new life in the fellowship of those who love you. Grant that he may suffer when another suffers, and when another rejoices, rejoice. Grant that he may be your faithful soldier and servant until his life’s end. Amen.

Through the abiding presence of your Spirit, Lord: Grant that he may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning. Grant that when he passes through the dark waters of death, you will be with him. Grant that he may inherit the kingdom of glory prepared for him from the foundation of the world. Amen.

We all learned in the news this week of the thirty-eight soldiers of the cross in Egypt who honored their baptismal vows by becoming martyrs at the hands of radical Muslims on their way to the Monastery of St. Samuel where they intended to imitate the apostles with ten days of fasting and prayer for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on their country so torn by civil and religious strife. Let us pray.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs of Egypt have triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

And on a personal note, please join me in praying for my brother’s wife, Elizabeth, who had a lung transplant in Paris last week and who is making a slow and hopeful recovery, as well as all those who seek the healing of the Lord. Let us pray.

O God, the source of all health: So fill Elizabeth and all those we love with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy she and they may make room for your power to possess them, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And above all, let us thank God that Jesus has shared his own prayer with his Father in today’s gospel, where we learn that we glorify the Son when we remain one with him and with one another, even as he prays to his Father to protect us so that we might remain one with him and with one another. This has always been my prayer for our parish, and God has been good and kind to honor that prayer, with only a few of our flock over the past twenty years leaving us for other sheep folds. I promise you that it will remain my earnest and daily prayer for you after I retire, that you may be united in your devotion to the Lord and in your search for a new rector who will faithfully shepherd you in the future, trusting in Peter’s promise that whatever we may suffer for our faith, we have a heavenly Father who will restore, support, strengthen and establish us to the end. Amen.