Every Sunday in our church, we pray for people who are on our minds. This is one way the church reaches out to loved ones who are healing from illness or celebrating a wedding or a new baby. When we pray together, we are sharing our love for people near and far and inviting God in to heal the sadness or brokenness in our lives. We believe these prayers are powerful, and can change our lives in surprising ways.
In honor of Earth Day this past Sunday, we put a new twist on our weekly prayers: we prayed for places. In Sunday School, the children thought about the places in the world that needed our prayers and wrote them carefully on the bright paper butterflies we use for prayer requests. I was moved by the thought the children and their teachers put into these prayers for special places. Some thought of places they would love to visit, from England to LaFramboise Island near Pierre.
Others prayed for places where the land and its people have suffered war, poverty, earthquakes and tsunamis, including Afghanistan, Japan, Syria and Haiti. Together, we gave thanks to God for the wonders of creation, and prayed for God’s healing and peace to reign in places where there is abuse of the earth, and conflict, oppression and poverty among people.
These prayers helped remind us that all of creation ultimately belongs to God. Most of us can easily think of a special place where we experience God in nature, whether it’s church camp, the Grand Canyon or the lawn by the dorms where we can play Frisbee now that spring is here. We can also easily bring to mind a place where creation has been torn apart and lives have been lost — holding both places in our prayers at once requires a change in our way of thinking about the world. It’s easy to find God in the places we love, places of beauty and adventure.
But for people of faith, Earth Day should remind us that, as Maya Angelou says, “There is no place where God is not.” If we remembered that God also lives in the gulf where oil has been spilled, in Antarctica where ice is disappearing and in Syrian refugee camps, maybe we could begin to set new priorities in our outlook toward the earth we all call home.
Where will you be going this summer? As graduation approaches and vacation is just around the corner, I hope your travels will lead you somewhere exciting, a favorite mountain or fascinating city — or back to the hometown you’ve been missing. I hope you are refreshed and energized by your encounters with nature. And wherever you go, know that there is no place on earth where God’s love won’t go with you.