It was my week to write the World in Prayer prayers. The top news stories were the peace accord hammered out in Ukraine, and the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC. But the story that struck me was that of a group of 6 prison inmates in Taiwan who had taken some prison guards hostage and, after a 14-hour stand-off, committed suicide.
These were not nice people, it sounds like. And yet I felt very called to pray for them. Which then moved me to pray for other people that I would much rather not pray for. And I was reminded of the great commandments, and of Jesus' words, "I was in prison and you visited me," and "Whatever you do for the least of these, you have done for me." And that led me to these prayers.
As we prepare ourselves for the holy season of Lent, let us reflect in prayer on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: that when we love the least of these, we love you, Lord.
Help us to love the least of these in prison. We pray for prisoners throughout the world. We pray that they may receive justice, that those who are innocent may be freed and those who are guilty may be restored and reconciled. We pray especially this week for Taiwan where 6 inmates held several guards hostage before committing suicide.
Help us to love the least of these who are refugees. We pray for the souls of the 300 migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. We pray too for all those who tried to rescue them, as they have done so many times over the past months and years, and help them deal with the grief and horror of the tragedy. We pray for the children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and elsewhere, held in family detention camps in New Mexico, USA. We pray for all those who have been displaced from their homes.
Help us to love the least of those who seek peace. We give thanks for the ceasefire announced in Ukraine and pray that it may hold. We pray for Syria, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Afghanistan, and for countries affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, especially Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger.
Help us to love the least of those of all faiths and tribes. We pray for Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan who were killed this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA by their neighbor.
Help us, O Lord, to love our neighbors as You have commanded us to do. Help us to see in them the image of the living God who has come to dwell with us. And may we be transformed when we see You before us in the face of the least of these.