In Times of Crisis

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This prayer service provides an opportunity for prayer and communal support in light of the aftermath of any disaster. The service can be used with any size group, and with various ages of young people. It is also appropriate for parish or school wide services.

This prayer service provides an opportunity for prayer and communal support during times of crisis. It may be used when an unexpected death occurs, in the aftermath of a natural disaster (such as a hurricane, a fire, a tornado, or an earthquake), during times of civil unrest, or in times of terrorism. It is also appropriate when a community is experiencing the loss of industry and jobs, or when harm has been done to an individual or a community (such as from a school shooting, looting, or violence). Whatever the situation, the service offers the participants an opportunity to pray for and about a crisis or its aftermath.

Guide for Preparing a Reflection
If you are including a reflection after the Scripture reading, Romans 8:35,37–39, give a copy of the following guide to the person who will be leading it and suggest that she or he adapt it to her or his own style and purpose:

The events of our lives, especially the painful and difficult ones, stay with us forever. All our experiences become a part of the fabric of our lives and offer opportunity for growth. But we have a choice: to grow through such events or to be hardened by them. What has happened is not something to be gotten over. It is not something to forget and put behind us. It is something we learn to live through, and we carry the lessons with us into the future. God's invitation in these events is to trust that God will sustain our lives under any circumstances. This time is not comfortable--quite the opposite. But it is the quintessential teaching moment.

To trust is to recognize that Christ is in our midst, healing us, transforming us, renewing us, and guiding us. Nothing separates us from God. Trust in the Lord, who misses nothing that happens in our lives, who has the power to bring joy out of sorrow, wholeness out of brokenness, and hope out of despair.

Preparing the Music
When choosing the gathering song for this service, choose something that is familiar to all so that everyone can easily join in singing. The following selections can be found in the second edition of Gather Comprehensive, published by GIA Publications:

  • "Neither Death Nor Life," by Marty Haugen
  • "Why Stand So Far Away, My God?" by Michael Mahler and Ruth Duck
  • "The Cloud's Veil," by Liam Lawton
  • "O God, Why Are You Silent?" by Marty Haugen
  • "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" (traditional English)

    Order of Prayer:
    In Times of Crisis

    All the prayers in this service are led by the presider unless otherwise indicated.

    Gathering Song
    The presider stands and motions for all to stand. The person leading song invites the assembly to join in singing the gathering song.

    At the conclusion of the song, all sit. If necessary, the presider motions for all to sit.

    After all are seated, without rushing, the cantor or the choir begins the first psalm. The cantor or the choir sings the verses, and the assembly sings the response. If the psalms are proclaimed, the responses can be used after each verse.

    First Psalm: Psalm 141
    [All respond.] "Let my prayer rise before you like incense, O Lord, and my hands like an evening off'ring" (Gather Comprehensive).

    After a brief period of silence following the conclusion of the psalm, the presider stands and motions for all to stand, and she or he proclaims the psalm prayer.

    Psalm Prayer
    Let us pray. [Pause.]
    Source of all love and life,
    hear our voices as we cry out to you.
    We call out to you,
    O Lord, to fill our hearts with your Spirit,
    so that as we are faced with the difficulties and anxieties
    that life has brought us,
    we may remember your eternal love,
    and trust in the promise of your presence.
    O God, our strength and stay,
    our times are in your hands:
    you uphold us in the chances and changes of our lives,
    you do not abandon us in our distress.
    Give us courage in this time of trial,
    make us gracious and generous even as we suffer,
    and lift our spirits that we may live always
    in the confidence of your nearness and love.
    We ask this through your Son,
    our Lord, Jesus Christ,
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God forever and ever.
    [All respond.] Amen.

    After the psalm prayer, the presider motions for all to sit. Without rushing, the cantor or the choir begins the second psalm.

    Second Psalm: Psalm 121

    [All respond.] "Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth" (Gather Comprehensive).

    After a brief period of silence following the conclusion of the psalm, the presider stands and motions for all to stand, and he or she proclaims the psalm prayer.

    Psalm Prayer
    Let us pray. [Pause.]
    Lord God, maker of heaven and earth,
    our help comes from you and you alone.
    You, O God, give meaning to our hopes,
    to our struggles, and to our strivings.
    Without you we are lost, our lives empty.
    And so when all else fails us, we turn to you!
    When in agony, we are bystanders to our own confusion.
    We look to you for peace.
    Give us strength to face life with hope and courage,
    that even from its discord and conflicts we may draw blessings.
    We believe that you will hear us
    in this time of difficulty and suffering.
    Help us keep the image of your Son ever before us,
    and let us feel the healing calm of your embrace.
    God, all-powerful, you know our pain and see our tears.
    Listen to our prayer, for we know our help comes from you.
    We pray this in your Son's name.
    [All respond.] Amen.

    After the psalm prayer, the presider motions for all to sit. Without rushing, the reader or readers stand to proclaim the reading from the Scriptures.

    Scripture Reading:
    Romans 8:35,37-39

    A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans:
    Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    The word of the Lord.

    [All respond.] Thanks be to God.

    Optional Reflection
    After the reading, observe a period of silence. If there is to be a reflection, the person giving it stands. If there is no reflection, after the silence, all stand for the canticle.

    As the cantor begins the canticle, the presider and all make the sign of the cross.

    For evening prayer, the Canticle of Mary is the standard canticle. If the prayer service is held later in the evening, the Canticle of Simeon may be used instead.

    All remain standing as the presider invites the assembly to pray the intercessions. After the reader has led the petitions, the presider concludes by offering a final prayer of petition:
        Surely Christ has borne our grief and carried our sorrows. Therefore we turn to God in prayer during this time of crisis, saying,
    O Christ, hear us.
    • God of the nations and all peoples, we cry to you for consolation. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • God of all power, we come to you in fear. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • Unshakable God, we call out to you in grief and anxiety. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • All-seeing God, keep watch over all who have been harmed and those who minister to them. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • Compassionate God, send your Holy Spirit to soothe the suffering and comfort the afflicted. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • Ever-present God, help us to feel your nearness in the midst of this ominous day. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • Welcoming God, bless the dying and receive them into the arms of your mercy. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • God of blessing, support our national leaders and all who hold authority in the nations of the world. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.
    • Finally, O God of truth, work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth and to unite us in harmony and love. We pray, . . . [all respond] O Christ, hear us.

      Great God of all, have mercy and heal us.
      God of love, God of truth, God of life, God of hope,
      you know our needs are great at this time.
      You know them better than we can even state them now.
      In your mercy, hear our prayer.
      In your wisdom, grant us those things
      that will lead us forward to wholeness, love, and peace again.
      In your grace, bless us in this time with your holy and life-giving presence.
      For blessed are you, O God, and blessed is all that you do.
    [All respond.] Amen.

    Closing Prayer and Blessing
    The following prayer and blessing are led by the presider:

    The Lord's Prayer
    As a sign of unity and reverence for one another, let us join hands and pray the perfect prayer. [All join in.] Our Father . . .
    Closing Blessing
    Let us bow our heads and pray for God's blessing:
    The God of love be with us all.
    [All respond.] Amen.
    The Christ of grace be for us all.
    [All respond.] Amen.
    The Spirit of peace be among us all.
    [All respond.] Amen.
    Let us go forth into the world trusting the power of God's grace and love.
    [All respond.] Thanks be to God.

    Sign of Peace
    Let us conclude our prayer by extending to one another a sign of God's peace.


(This activity is from As Morning Breaks and Evening Sets: Liturgical Prayer Services for Ordinary and Extraordinary Events in the Lives of Young People, by Tony Alonso, Laurie Delgatto, and Robert Feduccia [Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, 2004], pages 22-27. Copyright © 2004 by Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this activity to be used for classroom or campus ministry purposes. This activity may not be republished in any form without written permission from Saint Mary's Press. To order this book, contact Saint Mary's Press at 800-533-8095, or visit our online catalog at

Published August 30, 2005.