The following was the Pastoral prayer we prayed this Sunday at First United Methodist Church of Toms River:
Loving and merciful God,
You have gathered us to worship you, to worship you together as one body. And we remember today that this is your prayer for us as a church—that we may be one as you are one. That we may love one another, welcome one another, lift up one another, and be open to each other.
We confess that we have failed to do that.
We confess that, even here, we are too narrow minded and too selfish to love as you love, to be as indiscriminately loving as you are. Our community, our body, is broken. So God, we pray that you would heal it. We pray that, just as your body was broken for us and restored, that you would restore our broken body; even as we re-member you at the communion table today. Help us, as we eat and drink, to “discern the body” to be sure that we have invited everyone whom you have invited.
God, for some of us, this was a long week. Some of us faced trials that seemed overwhelming. Some of us received news that was devastating. Some were burdened by worry and despair. Some of us, even now, are weighed down by fear and trouble. God, we do not know why we experience such hardship and struggle… and sometimes it causes us to doubt your love and your power. But God, in the mystery of our struggles, we trust that you are here…
You are with us. You are closer to us than our very breath, and we trust that your presence is life-giving. So give life to those who are struggling and give hope to those who feel hopeless. Seek and save the lost. And God, with your life-giving presence, bring us joy so that we may celebrate the good in the world—every good gift that comes from you. Help us to be free and to find rest in you. Help us to be people of joy and gratitude… And it is with gratitude that we pray in the strong name of our crucified, risen, and reigning lord, Jesus.