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Kyrie Eleison

The year was 1986. I was twelve years old. A song kept playing on the radio. Most people, including me, didn’t understand the words, but we sang it anyway.

Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel.
Kyrie eleison through the darkness of the night.

The song made its way to the top of the Billboard Charts. Only later did I find out what the song actually meant.

It was a prayer.

Kyrie eleison is Greek for “Lord, have mercy.” The Kyrie, as it is called, is one of the oldest prayers in the Christian Church. Christians have been saying and singing those words in worship for nearly 2,000 years.

God’s mercy is his forgiving love. Often in our worship we sing the Kyrie as we confess our sins. Together with the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, we bow our heads, beat our breasts and pray, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Traditionally, though, the Kyrie was used in prayers called “litanies.” As we ask God for his blessing and help in our lives, we pray, “Lord, have mercy.” We pray those words because we realize we don’t deserve anything good from our God. We are dirty, rebellious sinners.

The only reason God gives us good things is because of his mercy which forgives our sins in Jesus.

In light of recent events in our country and as we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, I invite you to pray the Kyrie with me:

Almighty God, we pray today for our nation – a nation blessed by you, but also a nation divided, a nation marked by violence and racism, a nation stained by sin.

Lord, have mercy.

We pray for our government. Bless our president, congress and courts. Help them to act wisely and according to your will. When they don’t, in your mercy forgive them. Use us and others to speak out against injustice and sin, but also help us to respect the governing officials as your representatives.

Lord, have mercy.

We pray for the families of the victims of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. Give them the peace that only you can give. We thank you for the faith of those who died and the heaven they are now enjoying because of Jesus. We also pray for the shooter, Dylan Roof, and all those whose hearts are hardened by racism and hate. Help them to find in you forgiveness and love.

Lord, have mercy.

As our nation struggles with issues of sexuality and marriage, we ask you to bless the families of our land. Help husbands and wives to love each other as you have loved them. In your mercy, forgive our many sins against your gift of sexuality.

Lord, have mercy.

Be with the Christians of our land. Give us the courage to stand firm in your Word. Forgive us our pride and anger. Help us to speak your truth boldly and in love.

Lord, have mercy.

We ask all of these things knowing that we and our nation are unworthy of your love. Yet, trusting in your mercy and the forgiveness Jesus won for us, we pray:

Kyrie eleison.