This week is National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States, and this past weekend was the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope and Life. As part of both events Utah’s Lieutenant Governor, Spencer Cox, requested that the state’s religious groups offer prayers for help in preventing suicide. He said:

Thoughts and prayers have been denigrated recently, over time, and I do understand that. But I want to say that I truly believe in the power of thoughts and prayers.

Of course, prayers are only the starting point. They must be accompanied by action, but prayers serve the purpose of orienting our hearts away from ourselves and our cares, to something or someone else in need. Rather than resembling the placing of coins in a vending machine, they instead are more like the act of writing down our hopes and dreams in a journal; they force us to focus on something and consider how we might be the hands and feet of God in bringing to pass our request.

An element of the Episcopal Church’s liturgy is the Prayers of the People. It precedes the Eucharist and is a communal way of offering intercessory prayers for all sorts of things. It typically takes the form of a prayer read by a designated “prayer reader”, a few lines at a time, followed by the entire congregation adding a collective supplication. The Book of Common Prayer contains many forms for this portion of the liturgy, but this past week my parish used a version specifically geared toward mental illness, suicide, and depression. It was an emotionally powerful and moving moment as about 200 people stood together and offered an intercessory prayer on behalf of all those who suffer in this way.

I want to share that prayer with you so I am replicating it below. Aside from the suggested moments of silence, the portions in italics are said by the entire congregation, while the regular text is spoken by the prayer reader.

The Prayers of the People

Let us pray to the Father of Mercies: Father, we pray for the unity and mission of the holy Church of God; that it may welcome and serve all those who live with sadness, depression, or thoughts of suicide.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide us, the citizens and leaders of this state and this city…that we may unite to provide for those who suffer in mind and spirit.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Forgive us when we knowingly or unknowingly ridicule, look in disgust, neglect or discriminate against those who struggle.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Comfort and relieve those who are deeply troubled. Bring them hope, peace and the consolation of a loving community to surround them.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Protect and defend those living with emotional, physical or spiritual anguish from all exploitation, addictions and abuse.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Walk with the homeless, runaways and missing persons, those who are destitute and all those who have no one to care for them. Forgive us for our indifference.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy and defense all who are contemplating suicide. Bring someone or something to intervene at this very moment…(moment of silence)

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

For all families who have lost a loved one to suicide, bring them comfort in trusting that your grace accepts their loved one, despite the final desperate act that brought them into your loving arms.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Empower us to speak up for those who have no voice. Save us from complacency and from accepting the shortcomings of the systems that have failed them.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide those who do research for the prevention and treatment of mental illness that can lead to suicide; uphold them with your compassion.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

For all those who are survivors of suicide and for all those in recovery. Return them to full and rewarding lives.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

For (read names), those on our parish prayer list and those we name now either silently or aloud…Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

For (read names) and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.