In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. He admonishes them, saying,
5“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
Immediately after this, he teaches his followers what we have come to call the Lord’s Prayer.
But Jesus isn’t simply teaching us how to pray. He is teaching us that what we pray for, and how we pray, matters. Our prayers are not finery to adorn our worship. Our prayers transform the Church and the world. This applies directly to our liturgy and it is intrinsically tied to the work of racial justice. Are we naming and confessing our sins of racial injustice? Are we praying for justice for specific groups of people, naming the injustices they have faced? Are we praying that God will make us proclaimers and agents of God’s justice? Are we giving thanks to God for God’s call to work for justice in the world? It matters whether we include these elements in our worship and it matters whether we only do this for a special service or whether we include them in our weekly Services throughout the seasons of the Church Year.
Below is the link to a document containing resources you might include in your liturgy. I encourage everyone who engages in the work of preparing worship for God’s people to consider these and other resources they may find inspiring, because by including specific liturgical elements in our communal worship we will be able to cultivate a desire for justice and a yearning for God’s grace and power to seek it.
Liturgical Resources for Peace and Justice (WORD Document)
Liturgical Resources for Peace and Justice (PDF)
Brian Biery is the Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Shrewsbury, PA. He has trained as a Spiritual Director through Oasis Ministries and is a member of the LSS Toward Racial Justice Taskforce.