Lord God, Have Pity on Us

A prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

Today’s thought for the Day, on BBC Radio 4 this morning, was given by the Rt. Reverend Richard Harries. Centred on prayer for all those caught up in the conflict un Ukraine, the bishop used a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

Reinhold Niebuhr[a] (1892–1971)  who was an American Reformed theologianethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years.

He believed in Justice tempered with Mercy, the title of one of his works from which comes the prayer below. He saw the importance of religion engaging with politics and public policy. Living through the Second World War he recognized that everyone is affected by conflict and violence of warfare, not least the innocent. One of the themes Richard Harries raised this morning was that the sin of violence is rooted in the human heart which, unchecked and held in the burning love of God can easily destroy the peace and tranquillity of the world created by God.

Richard Harries spoke of the Agony of Christ which he placed firmly in the heart of Ukraine, in all those suffering and in real despair at this time.

Because of this our personal prayer can be the prayer much loved by Orthodox Christians, known as the Jesus Prayer. Today that simple but deeply profound prayer is popular with many Christians. It has a number of forms but Bishop Richard shared his own version, apt for what the world is going through right now: Lord Jesus Christ, have pity on us.

Here is the prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

Lord we pray this day mindful of the sorry confusion of our world.
Look with mercy upon this generation of your children so steeped in misery of their own contriving,
so far strayed from your ways and so blinded by passions.
We pray for the victims of tyranny, that they may resist oppression with courage.
We pray for the wicked and cruel, whose arrogance reveals to us what the sin within our own hearts
is like when it has conceived and brought forth its final fruit.

We pray for ourselves who live in peace and quietness,

that we may not regard our good fortune as proof of our virtue,
or rest content to have our ease at the price of others’ sorrow and tribulation.

We pray for all who have some vision of your will,

despite the confusions and betrayals of human sin,
that they humbly and resolutely plan for and fashion the foundations of a just peace between people, even while they seek to preserve what is fair and just among us
against the threat of malignant powers.

Amen.

[Mr G]

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