Look to the Holy One


On the Eve of War

To be used now or on the eve of war

Some boast in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God---Psalm 20:7

In light of the clear and present danger of the United States going to war with Iraq, this prayer service was prepared as a resource for use on the evening Iraq is attacked by U.S. forces. Though this vigil of prayer might be used within congregational buildings, its enactment in front of public facilities (e.g. federal buildings, post offices, etc.) is strongly encouraged in order to offer public witness and prayer for peace, as well as to take a public stand against war. If the prayer vigil is done publicly it is advisable to have peace signs or a peace flag in order to identify the nature of the vigil as a counter witness to war.

GATHERING SONG- "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" Hymnal: No. 381, (Verses 1,2)*

CALLING UPON GOD God of grace and mercy, we gather here on this evening as our nation goes to war with Iraq to pray for mercy for our violence and to witness to Christ's way of peace. We believe you are a God who created the universe from nothing, makes streams burst forth in the desert, makes a way where there is no way. Together we pray that you will make a way for us through the wilderness of war. Give us courage to be able to stand against the winds of war and to actively resist the gale forces of violence, marching ever forward toward your promised land of peace and wholeness for all the earth. For the sake of Jesus Christ and the healing of humanity, we pray. Amen.

CALL TO OBEDIENCE- "Trust and Obey" Hymnal: No. 467


Introductory commentary (before reading Scripture):
This text from Isaiah is a woe oracle pronounced as a warning to Israel by the prophet for relying upon Egypt as political ally in providing military forces and weaponry against Assyria, considered a most formidable military threat in that time period. The prophet calls the nation to turn from their trust in political alliances and the power of their military might and to put their trust in the Holy One.

O Holy One, God of all nations, tongues, and peoples, we come into your presence confessing that we, as a people and nation, have tried to make our world more secure by relying upon political alliances, military strategy and technology, and by trusting in our own stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, fleets of ships, Stealth bombers, tanks, rifles and recruits. We confess that we, as a nation, have placed our trust in our military might to solve the intractable problems among the nations and have not looked to you and your transforming power to heal and reconcile. Have mercy upon us, even now as the bombs fall and the tanks roll. Lead us in the ways that nurture reconciliation. Teach us to follow in the costly way of peace exemplified in Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray…


PRAYER RESPONSE- "Kyrie eleison" Hymnal: No. 483

In times of crisis it is important to provide an opportunity for people to give voice to their hopes and fears, and possibly even their anger. The worship leader can introduce this time as a sacred space for sharing with one another their feelings, hopes, fears, and prayers at this time of crisis. The leader should be aware that there might be periods of silence as people collect their hearts and thoughts and seek to formulate words to express themselves.

At this time candles can be lit as those gathered join in silent prayer. When all candles are lit spend five to ten minutes in silence praying for an end to war, for repentance from relying upon war as a solution, for those who will lose life in the war and for their families, for the hopes and fears expressed by those gathered, and for trust in God in times of crisis. The period of silence may be preceded by a reading of Psalm 46:8-11.

CLOSING SONG- "Precious Lord, take my hand" Hymnal: No. 474

This chant, based on Psalm 20:7 , should be performed as an oral witness of trust in God over weapons of war. Since some may not be prepared to shout, it can be practiced beforehand or a small group of people can be enlisted to perform the chant. The call and response is to be repeated 3-4 times with a crescendo until the final chant is a shout!

Some boast in weapons
and some in bombs,
but our pride is in the name
of the Lord our God!

CORPORATE COMMITMENT (Alternative to chant)
The following corporate commitment to peace and justice can be recited in unison at the conclusion of the service:

In the presence of God and this gathered community, we commit ourselves, with God's grace, to continue to offer a public voice for peace. We will not remain silent in the face of death and destruction, but will speak up and act for peace between nations and justice within our own communities, for the two are inseparably linked. Though the drums of war beat, we march to a different drummer, Jesus Christ.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus---Philippians 4:7

*Appropriate familiar songs may be substituted to avoid the need for bringing hymnals.

Adapted from a liturgy by:
Leo Hartshorn
December 2002