Worship resources

RESOURCE 1: A liturgical prayer from the Syrian Orthodox Church in Damascus

O Lord, righteousness belongs to you,
but we disgrace our faces because we have sinned against you.
To you, our Lord God, belong mercies and forgiveness,
for we have rebelled against you
and not obeyed your voice to walk in your law which you set before us.
Righteous are you, O Lord, in all your works
that you have done even as we have not obeyed your voice.

Now therefore, O God, hear the prayers of your servants and our supplications
and cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary, for your name’s sake.
Incline your ear, O God, and hear.
It is not because of our righteousness that we bring our supplications before you, O Lord,
but because of Your abundant mercies.
O Lord, hear us.
O Lord, forgive.
O Lord, listen and act.
Be not slow to answer us, O God, for we have been called by your name.

RESOURCE 2: Weep with those who weep…
A prayer service for Syria

By Ken J. Nafziger

In the face of the tragedy facing Syria, prayer can seem like an inadequate response. There are no easy answers. But being present to the situation in prayer, rather than looking away, is an important response. It expresses solidarity with those who are suffering as well as declaring our faith in an all-powerful God who can work in surprising ways.

Opening hymn
HWB 368 O God of love, O Power of peace
(Sing only stanzas 1-2. Sing the first stanza in unison, the second as a round.)

Hymn and prayer, praying along with Syrian brothers and sisters, and on behalf of those who find it difficult to pray:

STJ 54 Longing for light
(Sing stanza 2, and then begin the spoken prayer. Sing the refrain as a response at the asterisks.)

(To be read by a leader)
In the darkness of uncertainty,
when we don’t know what to do,
when decisions are hard to make,
light up our darkness.
* Christ be our light…
In the darkness of our anxiety
when we are worried about the future,
when we don’t know where to turn,
light up our darkness.
* Christ be our light…
In the darkness of our despair,
when life seems empty,
when we feel there is no future worth seeking,
light up our darkness.
* Christ be our light…
Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world;
where there is oppression, injustice, and poverty,
light up our darkness.
* Christ be our light…

–From Words for Worship 2. Copyright © 2009, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pa., ed. Diane Zaerr Brenneman; No. 101. Used with permission.

The facts and numbers surrounding the war in Syria are horrifying, and often conflicting, and almost always based on estimates. Here is a suggestion about how to make them understandable. Have 22 people from your congregation help you to form a representational human graph. The numbers are calculated as 22 being a symbolic equivalency of 22 million (Syria’s population before the war began). In larger congregations, use multiples of 22. If possible, the group should include at least several children.

The leader will invite the 22 people chosen and rehearsed ahead of time to move to the front in silence. Then the leader will say, for example, “These 22 people represent the entire population of Syria.” A moment of silence will follow. Then, continue, by moving people as indicated below.

Leader, spoken in a loud voice:
The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
–Habakkuk 1:1-3

These 22 people represent Syria’s population of some 22 million.

One of these has died in the war, representing 250,000 people.
(One person should sit down or in some way disappear from the line.)

Nine of these people face hunger, representing 8.7 million Syrians.
(These folks might clutch their empty, aching stomachs.)

Thirteen of these people require aid of all kinds, including medical assistance, shelter, and more. They represent 13.5 million people.
(These folks should show some other discomforts.)


STJ 66 If the war goes on
(During the hymn, all return quietly and slowly to their seats.)

In addition to all the devastation resulting from the violence,
there is a staggering and unbearable weight of refugees who must be cared for.
Here again are the 22 people who represent Syria’s population of 22 million before the war began.
(The group of 22 stands up.)

Six of these are people who have been displaced within Syria: 6.5 million.
(Move six people off to the side, and crowd them together.)

Five of these have fled the country, some 4.8 million who have found refuge in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, or Egypt. (Five people, including two children, leave.)

Two of these refugees are children. They represent 2.5 million children.


STS 53 Here to the house of God we come
(During the hymn, all return quietly and slowly to their seats.)

Closing prayers
(to be read by a leader)
Creator God,
we pray for peace . . . we sing of peace . . .
peace in our hearts and peace in our lives,
peace in our homes and schools, peace in our community,
peace in the world–and even as we pray for peace . . .
we wonder, God . . . can it be? How is peace possible?
Are we truly the ones who make peace happen?
And how do we hope to bring peace to the world,
if we can’t even find peace within ourselves?

(Here, a solo flute plays one stanza of STS 16, Peace before us.)

Even as we pray for peace, God . . . even as we seek peace . . .
the song of peace seems beyond our hearing
and even past our remembering.
Is it that we have forgotten the sound of peace
that resonates deep within us?
Can we not remember the richness of the sound
as it echoes through our souls?
Have we truly forgotten the song of peace that springs forth
from a sacred and holy space deep within our hearts?
Perhaps we believe the melody is already written . . .
rather than trusting the tune we hear within our hearts.
Perhaps we believe it is a solo sung with one voice . . .
rather than the fullness of harmony that each of us bring.
Perhaps we believe we are simply participants in the chorus . . .
rather than co-creators of the beauty.

(Here again, a solo flute plays one stanza of STS 16. After the reading continues, the flute begins to play again, and when the final “Amen” is spoken, the congregation is invited to sing stanza 1 with the flute.)

Break open our hearts, God . . .
break open our hearts with the full-ness of your Spirit.
Allow us to receive the blessing of your peace
in the midst of our living.
Peace within us,
peace over us,
let all around us be peace.
–Karen C. Eberly, Manchester, Ind. Church of the Brethren

(to be read in unison)
Reconciling God,
who holds the brokenness of the world in a vast embrace,
restore us to your side,
so that we may offer healing and hope beyond our borders.
In the name of Jesus.
–Lois Siemens, STJ 130


HWB Hymnal: A Worship Book
STJ Sing the Journey
STS Sing the Story

Ken Nafziger is professor of music at Eastern Mennonite University.

Note: Statistics updated as of October 2016.

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