Pastoral Prayer for the Gulf Oil Spill

By Jeanyne Slettom

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

Loving God,
We seek clarity in all the dimensions of our lives–our relationships, our work, our leisure.
Like Jesus, who set his face toward Jerusalem in the certainty that, in so doing, he was being faithful to you,
So we seek to set our faces toward the things that you would have us do, that in so doing, we, too, may be faithful.

With this desire for faithfulness in our hearts, we look at events unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico,
and we struggle with feelings of powerlessness and even despair.
The magnitude of the disaster is too much for our minds to hold–
The loss of life for those on the exploding oil rig,
The loss of life for all the creatures of the sea,
And the vast plant life that sustains them,
The loss of livelihood for so many people already struggling economically.
And this: that it is ongoing. The pumping of the oil is relentless,
Day after day after of escalating catastrophe.

Where is the clarity in this situation?
What is the faithful response?
We can pray–and we do–for all the scientists and engineers trying to stop the flow.
We can pray–and we do–for all the people working tirelessly to contain the spill,
working to protect fragile ecosystems and communities from its toxic consequences.
We can pray–and we do– for business practices and government regulations
that respect the planetary environment on which we all depend.
But isn’t there more we can do?
Where is the “Jerusalem” in this–the faithful response–toward which we can set our faces?

Open our hearts and minds in this moment. [Silence.]
Clear away the distractions that triv   ialize our responses.
Dismiss the hopelessness that lurks in the very enormity of the problem,
that seduces us into thinking we’re not involved, that this is happening to someone else.
Focus our attention today, now, and in the days to come, on specific acts we can undertake;
changes we can make in our own lives, legislation we can encourage.
Teach us, as individuals and as a nation, the meaning of the word “enough”–
enough profit, enough consumption, enough arrogance toward creation,
enough of this racing toward our own destruction.

We set our faces toward life.
We find clarity in you, and in your clear command for justice, compassion, respect, not just for human life, but all life.
Fill us with that sacred calling, that in our responses to this eco-cide and in the choices we make every day,
we affirm the mighty call to life,
to the well-being of all creation,
to the flourishing of creation,
to the day when the morning stars sing together
and all creation–pelicans and plankton, coastal birds, coral reefs and clams, sea turtles and fish of the shallows, fish of the deep–
all creation shouts for joy.

Copyright: This prayer was written by Jeanyne Slettom, Ph.D. and is made available through Process & Faith, a program of the Center for Process Studies. Used by permission.