After each petition, the minister says: ‘Lord, in your mercy’
The congregational response is: ‘Hear our prayer’
Gracious Lord, you who are the Good Shepherd, grant us a compassion and care within us that is reflective of yourself.
We think of your birth in far-off Palestine. How its announcement was singled out to humble animal carers. Yes, shepherds watching over their flocks by night. We thank you that, after the angels had been revealed in the sky to these protectors of sheep, they came to a cattle shed; and there - to their amazement - found you as a babe, resting between two beasts of burden. Yes, an ox and an ass, one on either side, were watching over you!
Gracious Lord, we realise the impact such a birth was to have upon your future ministry. We leam, so clearly, how you later referred to your life's work in terms of an analogy. Yes, of how good shepherds will, willingly, lay down their lives to protect dumb animals committed to their charge. Alas! It's not so, today. Lord. We're so far removed from it! Our prayer is that modem husbandry may once again return to its former glory!
In this modem age of so much intensive cruelty towards gentle, herbivorous creatures - not least, the live export of countless beasts crammed together in lorries to undergo horrendous journeys on sea -make each of us as a mouthpiece for these lambs that are so close to your heart. May we take up the challenge and, if necessary, be willing to lay down our lives in protection of weaker life than our own.
Dear Lord, you are so rightly our master, yet you reveal yourself as our servant! You are king of kings yet you chose a stable for your birth. You had legions of angels at your disposal, yet you went of your own volition to the cross- You taught that the one who would be greatest must become as the least. 'You have, indeed, cast down the mighty and exalted the humble and meek!' Help us to follow your example.
Then show us, who are born a little lower than the angels and given dominion over your creation, that our greatness is in following your example. As you the Son of God gave your lifes work for the good of a humanity below you, help us to give our life sacrificially for that which, in our less worthy moments, we might consider to be below ourselves.
Gracious Christ, on Calvary your arms were outstretched to envelop the whole of creation. Save us from singing: 'He's got the whole world in his hands' while ever we ignore the needs of the dumb creation. Forgive mankind from grievously shrinking the breadth and depth of your love; by blasphemously implying that we humans are the only ones you care about.
Dear Lord, we are reminded of how your Father commanded Noah to include animals in the Ark, and not just humans, (in fact more of them than of us!) Then grant that on this Good Shepherd Sunday your church - which claims to be the ark of salvation today! - may, at long last, honour your Father by remembering these exploited and abused animals in its prayers; its praise and its preaching.
- Rev. James Thompson