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Prayer for Friday 13 August 2021

Listen to a service of Prayer for 13 August 2021 (Trinity 10 / DEL Week 19: Friday), including a reflection on the gospel reading

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Praise

Lord of heaven and earth,
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer,
give us patience and courage never to lose hope,
but always to bring our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Psalm 136.1-3, 16-22

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious,
for his mercy endures for ever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his mercy endures for ever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his mercy endures for ever;

Who led his people through the wilderness,
for his mercy endures for ever;

Who smote great kings,
for his mercy endures for ever;

And slew mighty kings,
for his mercy endures for ever;

Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his mercy endures for ever;

And Og, the king of Bashan,
for his mercy endures for ever;

And gave away their land for a heritage,
for his mercy endures for ever;

A heritage for Israel his servant,
for his mercy endures for ever;

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.

Reading
Matthew 19.3-12

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’

His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

Reflection

As I journey with couples who are preparing to make the life-long commitment of Holy Marriage, there always comes a time when we speak of forgiveness and tolerance. As couples stand next to each other in church making those well-known vows of love and fidelity, they are making a public declaration that there will never be anyone more important in their lives than the person who is standing next to them at that moment. Every couple who comes to the point of standing before God, joining hands, making those solemn vows and exchanging those precious rings, is doing so in the joyous hope of a life of happy marriage. But … sadly … that hope does not always stand the test of time.

There are many reasons why marriages come to an untimely end. Some involve betrayal of trust, while others are rooted in disinterest and disaffection. Some are rooted in a specific action, while others are the end of a long journey of separation. Whatever the cause, it is a fact of modern life that marriages do end before the lifelong commitment of the marriage vows has run its course. Some marriages are dissolved on the ruling of an earthly judge, in accordance with an earthly legal code, in order that damaged lives might find healing and renewal.

In today’s reading we hear Jesus’ teaching on the subject of divorce, but within a specific context. Unlike his teaching on this subject in other gospels, in this passage Jesus’ teaching is nuanced. The Pharisees went to Jesus and asked him about the law of Moses in respect to this difficult subject. Jesus’ response is nuanced in the sense that he offers an explanation for Moses’ ruling in this matter. Moses was responding to a human need and not a divine ideal. The teaching of God is clear. Men and women are created in the image of God. In God’s world, men and women are meant to be companions for each other, and in marriage they become one, indivisible, flesh. Divorce is not something that should happen, but even Jesus seems to accept the grounds of sexual infidelity as appropriate justification.

In the modern world, there is a greater sense of understanding when it comes to the way in which human beings relate to each other within the world of God’s wonderful creation. But … if they come to the point of making a faithful commitment to each other, they have to understand that God’s ideal is not that that should be a commitment that is easily set aside. We are all called to live a life of faithful commitment, if not to a human partner then to the God who created us in his own image.

Let us pray for the strength to forgive those nearest and dearest to us. Let us pray that we might be ever faithful to those with whom we have found love and companionship, and to the God who blessed that relationship.

Prayers of intercession

Let us pray to God, who from the beginning has made all things for his loving purpose.

Grant to the Church grace to witness unceasingly to Jesus Christ her Lord. Empower your ministers to proclaim his lordship and the coming of his Kingdom.

Take away the hardness of heart which divides families, breeds strife between people and sets nation against nation. Let the simple trust of a child draw the peoples of the world together.

We pray for our families, and for all the families in this community. Protect and guide them day by day, as they look to you in faith for all their needs. Strengthen our love when we are together and when we are apart.

Have mercy on those whose lives have been broken by divorce or separation. Heal the wounds they have suffered, and grant them the spirit of reconciliation and hope for the future.

We give thanks for the departed who have entered the kingdom where there is no division, but one perfect union, no strife but one perfect love. Grant to those who pass through this world the simple faith that leads to salvation.

We pray in the name of Christ, the teacher of wisdom to all who seek him.

Prayer for the week

Almighty God,
in whose service lies perfect freedom:
teach us to obey you
with loving hearts and steadfast wills;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. 
Amen.

The Grace

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore.  Amen.