A Prayer To Help Us Pause in Holy Week | Sojourners

A Prayer To Help Us Pause in Holy Week

Christian pilgrims kneel and pray with a cross on Good Friday in 2015 on the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus carried his cross to his crucifixion, in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: Debbie Hill/ UPI / Alamy

This week marks the most profound, and yes, holy time in our liturgical calendar: We remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday — quickly followed by his betrayal, sham trial, torture, crucifixion, death, burial, and finally, resurrection. It’s a whirlwind week, with anguish and lament turning into jubilant praise and deep thanksgiving.

Each Holy Week, I try to resist the temptation to rush too quickly to the joyful end of the week without first dwelling on Christ’s suffering and the full meaning behind the cross. I don’t want the cheap and shallow grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

So as we move through Holy Week, I want to offer a prayer that pauses at each step along Jesus’ journey, from his agony in the garden to the triumphant joy of Easter. As we anticipate Christ’s ultimate victory over sin, death, and injustice on our behalf, let us find the courage to linger in the uncertainty, the suffering, and sacrifice that builds up to the glory of the resurrection.

A Prayer for Holy Week

Jesus, we remember the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday: You shared the sacrament of Holy Communion with your disciples; you prayed at Gethsemane; you were betrayed, arrested, denied three times by Peter, and put on trial.

As we remember this dark day, we lament the things in our world that test our faith as the disciples’ faith was tested on that fearful night: the extreme polarization in our politics and churches; the pervasiveness of systemic racism; the continued impasse on critical measures to safeguard democracy and the right to vote in the United States; our lack of progress on averting the most calamitous impacts of climate change.

We know that there is no burden you cannot carry, Jesus; help us surrender our cynicism, our doubts, our fears, and even our feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Lord, we remember the way you were maliciously mistreated on Good Friday: falsely tried and convicted for the crime of sedition and then brutally tortured and crucified.

As we remember this day, we lament the suffering, oppression, and death we see all around us, including the continued racial injustice in our nation, particularly in our legal system. We repent for our part in a system that has falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned so many. Help us to resist a punitive spirit, remembering that you hold every person as beloved.

We mourn for more than 6 million of your children around the world whose lives were claimed by COVID-19. We lament the inequality that this pandemic has revealed, in the United States and around the world. We fight against the despair we feel with the rise of new variants and disinformation.

We lament the extreme suffering, death, and destruction caused by armed conflict in nations around the world: Ukraine, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and far too many more. We ask you to intercede and create pathways to peace. Form a hedge of protection around civilians in imminent danger and all those working to deliver humanitarian aid. We lament the hunger crisis the war in Ukraine is creating, both in that country and in many nations in Africa and the Middle East who depend on crops grown in Ukraine and Russia to feed their people.

Jesus, our redeemer and deliverer, we remember Holy Saturday: Your disciples sheltered in fear, sorrow, dread, and doubt.

As we remember this day, we lament everything that makes us feel as they did. Help us live into the liminal space between the trauma and brokenness of what is and the hopeful promise of what will be. Strengthen our resilience without hardening our hearts. Keep those who are most vulnerable at the forefront of our thoughts, prayers, and actions.

Lord, we rejoice on Easter morning: The stone has been rolled away and resurrection is real!

As we rejoice this day, we give thanks for the glimpses of resurrection hope that we see all around us: the coming of spring, growing movements protecting our democracy precinct by precinct, the fervor of young people who resist the inevitability of our current climate catastrophe.

We give thanks for recent labor union victories won by employees of powerful corporations like Starbucks and Amazon, and the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will be the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

With this hope of Easter in our hearts, let us experience rebirth and renewal, believing that you can make all things new. Let us move forward empowered by your Holy Spirit to cocreate communities, a nation, and a world defined by shalom, steadfast love, and justice. With thanksgiving, determination, and joy let us proclaim: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!”

J.K. Granberg-Michaelson contributed to this article.