Prayers for Afghanistan

Uniting Church statement on Afghanistan.

Tune: CRADLE SONG (“Away in a Manger”)
We pray for Afghanistan’s people today:
for those who are fleeing – who know they can’t stay,
for those who face terror by day and by night,
for those who can’t leave and whose dreams can’t take flight.

We pray for the people who fear what’s in store,
for dreamers and poets who grieve a closed door.
for those who are hiding so no one will see
the people they are – or who they hope to be.

We pray for girls facing a world they don’t know,
who still long to read and to learn and to grow.
We pray for young women who live with the fear
their bodies, their voices, may soon disappear.

We pray for young children whose first lullabies
were bombs and explosions and wounded ones’ cries –
and for those who served there, who see how it ends,
who ponder their service, who grieve for lost friends.

We weep for the places where war leads to war.
We pray for your hand there to heal and restore!
Bless all who seek justice and peace as your way.
We pray for Afghanistan’s people today.

Text: Copyright © 2021 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:
This hymn is written to a gentle, peaceful tune for a people who need gentleness, peace, justice, and human rights in their land (as we all do, in our lands). It is a prayer for people who suddenly find themselves as desperate refugees, people who feel trapped and hopeless, vulnerable people, and girls and women whose dreams have been shattered. It is a prayer for people who know that war is a terrible thing and who have experienced many losses. It is a prayer for children who have grown up knowing nothing but war. It is a prayer for all in the land – and all of us in this land – who long for peace and justice in every place, and especially right now in Afghanistan.
Permission is given for free use of this hymn, including in online worship services.

We are weary, O God. 
Weary of the magnitude of problems in our world.
Weary of troubles that overwhelm us.
Our global community has seen too much despair
disappointment and destruction, loss and grief.
If we are on our knees in prayer, we feel we may not rise again. 
And yet, in your company, we have the courage to face our realities,
and to name them in the spirit of prayer.
In between the words, we leave space for silence,
for those things that can best be expressed only
by lament, sighs, and sorrow.
And yet, it is in these moments that the truth
of our human condition can be seen most fully,
and named most truthfully.  
We pray for Afghanistan. 
For people wearied by war, violence and destruction.
For people living under the long shadow of fear and uncertainty.
For people whose lives have been upended and in turmoil. 
For people desperate for hope, longing for peace.
We pray for shelter and safety and some semblance of certainty
for those whose lives are at the mercy
of leaders who wield power by weaponry, not wisdom. 
We pray for women and children, and their families, 
those at risk of losing life and liberty, and access to learning. 
We give thanks for the courage, strength and wisdom
that has grown silently within them, 
that it will sustain them in body, mind and spirit
and be enough for them to endure in the midst of troubles. 
We pray for those who have evacuated in fear of their lives, 
who have left behind loved ones and all they held dear,
uncertain about what happens next. 
We pray for ourselves, for we know that differences
in language and culture and customs
can serve to distance us from real human need,
until the situation is dire and threatens to overwhelm us all.  
We feel helpless, angry at inaction and delays by those with power to act,
frustrated by the foolishness and destruction of war 
while lining the pockets of those who manoevre to be beneficiaries.
Help us to find the courage to speak on behalf of others
when their voices have been silenced, 
to name ugly truths and to sow the seeds of justice.
We pray for those we name as enemies,
though the words are hard to form on our lips and in our hearts.
We pray for their awakening to the welfare and well-being of others
to see that vengeance and violence sow the seeds of dissent and despair.
May nation building be founded on justice, and the value of each person. 
We pray in the name of Jesus
who revealed to us the God of compassion and love,
a God who invites us all to be part of a new family of God,
a kin-dom of people whose lives are shaped
by love, justice, peace, compassion and right living. 
Even when we journey through dark valleys and on barren ground, 
we pray, because we are not alone:
God is with us, and remains with us forever. Thanks be. Amen.  
(Source: Rev Sandy Boyce, August 2021)
Selah (SEE-lah) is a Hebrew word used in the Psalms that means “to pause and reflect upon what has just been said.” It may be used at different times in this prayer to create a space for prayerful reflection. 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Psalm 22.1-2
To you, the God of earth and heaven,
we turn, in grief, and pray.
For the peoples of Afghanistan,
facing terror once again,
haunted by the serried ranks of ghosts
from interminable invasions and wars,
desperate for hope,
hungering for peace;
Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We weep at what we have seen
in these last weeks and months;
we are heart-struck
with what we fear will happen now.
We have nowhere else to turn, but you;
and so we cry out:
halt the violence,
restrain those who would seek vengeance,
shelter those most at risk;
Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We confess the arrogance of empire
– Mongol, British, Russian and American –
which has spawned generations of brokenness
amongst the rubble of injustice and war.
Forgive us, we pray,
for the destruction we have wrought,
falsely determined that we knew what was right.
Forgive us for our failure to offer the Afghan peoples
what they most sorely need;
Help governments, including our own,
to act with integrity for those who have served us
and those who seek refuge within our land;
Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We pray, especially, for women and girls,
who have most to fear from the Taliban’s return.
Endow them with further courage and wisdom,
to endure what is to come;
to create hope where none seems evident;
to sow justice in what appears barren ground.
May they know their inherent value and worth
especially when days are darkest;
Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
May the leaders of the Taliban
and all who cast their lot with them
realise the inherent and abiding evil
of vengeance and violence.
Cause them to govern with the possibility of justice
and the realisation that each and every person
is valuable in the eyes and heart of God;
Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Crucified and risen Lord,
Our prayers arise,
accompanied by our groans,
may your Spirit move where we have failed,
for the sake of those most in need this day
and in the days to come.
Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Source: Rev Simon Hansford, Moderator of the Synod of NSW/ACT)

God of many names, the Generous,
the All-Merciful, the Source of Peace,
we pray in thanks for Afghanistan
land of pomegranates and grapes,
birthplace of Rumi,
and ‘I am the beggar of the world,’
landays of contemporary Afghan women.

We celebrate people –
Tajik and Hazaras, Uzbek and Pashtun.
We hear tabla, sitar, santur, tabur, flute,
and watch the attan danced.
We gaze upon art ancient and new –
miniatures and the weaves of rugs,
like no other in the world.

All earth opens its hands
and receives the gifts of Afghans,
and all the people pray,
each in their own many names and words
for safety of Afghans in these days –
seeking evacuation in the airport
moving quickly on the street,
hiding in homes,
wondering about schools.

For those who evacuate
and for those who wait for what is next,

for those who are foreign nationals,
and those bone-deep with history in the hills,

for faithful journalists still reporting,
and medical facilities desperate
for blocked supplies,

for Sikh and Hindu communities
and their holy places,

for the welcome of Australia,
and families across the ocean and near at hand
grieving loved ones lost,
life, body, mind in the long war.

for the afghan elder who has seen much
and the child born today
who will grow up to give a new gift,

we pray, O Compassionate, O Preserver. Amen
(Source: Maren Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)

Holy God, through your Spirit’s aid, we heave sighs too great for words.
For the land of Afghanistan, for its people (your people), and all life within its borders, we pray.
For army personnel and contractors there now, their safety, and moral integrity, we pray.
For those who are desperate for safety and those who are faced with unimaginable decisions, we pray.
For those who choose a way of violence and oppression, we pray.
For those who have given to the cause of the past twenty years and who carry the seen and unseen scars of this conflict, we pray.
For those who have dedicated lives and work and now struggle with the outcome, we pray.
For those who have committed to humanitarian work and rebuilding and may now be unable to complete their task, we pray.
For those who tend the wounded and the dying, for those who care for the remains of the dead, we pray.
For the women and girls, for people, who had glimpsed a different future and may now feel hopeless, afraid, or desperate, we pray.
For forgiveness, we pray.
For a world sustained by the reign of the Prince of Peace, we pray.
We pray. We pray. We pray.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
(Source: Pr. Julia Seymour, Montana, USA)

Eternal God, hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. There is a profound humanitarian crisis. Countless people, mostly women and children, are now fleeing and vulnerable. The lives of many are now endangered. The hopes of many are forgone. Send your Spirit, Lord, to rally the resolve of the nations of the earth to find pathways to save human lives, protect human rights, and to resolve the hardships of those seeking refuge, asylum, and safety. Hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. This we pray as followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
(Source: The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church USA)

Shirley Colless: While we quite rightly mourn the soldiers killed or scarred for life in body and mind, and do as much as possible to limit their numbers, the fact that the vast majority of victims of war, both in ancient times but now particularly in this era of more and more horrific weaponry, are the people of the local civilian population – the dead, the maimed, the displaced, people who have lost their homes, their loved ones, friends – who mourns them?

′′ The disappearance of the woman ′′
Artwork by an Iranian photographer.

“My tours in Afghanistan were towards the beginning of our time there, my first was in 2006. I found Afghanistan to be both incredibly beautiful and at the same time harsh beyond description. It was clear even then that there was no such thing as “Winning” possible. First of all we never had a clear plan. We had a few broad ideas. We had bunches of good intentions but Zero grand strategy. The closest thing we had to a plan was to train the Afgans to fight for themselves and they did fight. I did 113 combat mission during my first tour mentoring and advising a Afgan battalion (Kandac) fighting is frankly something they have been doing for a very long time and when motivated they fight well, unfortunatly more often than not their motivation was not to defeat the taliban, generally it was always self serving. Desertion, poor food, stolen wages (by their own chain of command) lacking supplies (they commonly stole the fuel and sold their weapons and uniforms because of lack of pay) serial abuse (again often from their own chain of command) Generally speaking anytime they approached 50% manning it was a surprize. Add all that to the reality that their own leadership often were political appointment rather than merit and you get the picture. There was no winning Afghanistan. I mourn the deaths. I lost friends, brothers and sisters. Americans and Afgans. Some there and some who took their own lives after coming home.. In a better world their sacrifices would have been worthy of them. I’m sorry but all I see is a colossal waste. Hubris is a wicked master”.
(Source: Martin Ericksen)

Thank you Lord, it’s to you we look for help and strength.   
To whom else can we go?  You alone have the words of Eternal life.
Lord, as we go through these difficult times, 
We pray you continue to show us your Love, Mercy and Grace; 
Speak Peace to our troubled hearts. Speak Comfort to our Fears.   
Speak Words of Love to our confused Minds.
Lord, bring Light that you may show us the way through this Darkness. Amen
(Source: Rev Alex Sangster, Transforming Worship Circle Advocate)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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