Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827):
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is in the news in Nebraska and elsewhere. This morning’s Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star both carried front page articles about the pipeline. With Governor Heineman this week asking the President to deny the permit to build the pipeline, with State Department public hearings to gather testimonies about the pipeline scheduled in Lincoln and Atkinson the last week of September, and with protests in front of the White House and elsewhere, more and more people are hearing about this issue and taking an interest in it.
Praying the news is an especially rich spiritual practice when we become aware of issues that evoke a passionate response from ourselves and others. Praying about the pipeline issue doesn’t necessarily mean being so sure of our own position that we pray exclusively for ourselves and our political allies! When we pray the news, we hold the issue up to God and pray for compassion to be present in ourselves and others as we consider the issue and decide whether and how to act on it. We pray for increased clearness around the issue and for courage in following where the truth leads. In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline or any other issue, praying the news can help us prepare to listen well to people on all sides of the issue; it can help us prepare to come together to find creative solutions to challenges instead of having every important issue become a source of bitter division.
We can simply hold the issue up in contemplative silence, or we can pray about it in our own words, having a conversation with God (which involves listening at least as much as speaking). If it’s difficult to find a way to pray about the Keystone pipeline issue, we have a wealth of resources in The Book of Common Prayer to help us. The Collect for the Conservation of Natural Resources (at the top of this post) is a good place to begin. It points to some key components of the concerns about the pipeline and about all environmental justice issues – our role as “fellow workers” with God in God’s creation; our need for wisdom and reverence to help us make good and holy decisions; and concerns for the effects of our actions on other people, including people in generations yet to be born.
These prayers contain some of the same elements: For the Future of the Human Race (p. 828), both prayers For Guidance (p. 832), and the prayer of thanksgiving For the Beauty of the Earth (p. 840).
We may be moved to pray for the President and our Governor (For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority, p. 820): “…make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear…”; we may be moved to pray for the people being arrested in front of the White House (For those who suffer for the sake of Conscience, p. 823) “…and to us your servants, give grace to respect their witness and to discern the truth…”; and For those who Influence Public Opinion (p. 827): “Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous…”
This seems a very good time to pray for our Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer using the prayer For Towns and Rural Areas (p. 825):
Lord Christ, when you came among us, you proclaimed the kingdom of God in villages, towns, and lonely places; Grant that your presence and power may be known throughout this land. Have mercy upon all of us who live and work in rural areas [especially in Nebraska]; and grant that all the people of our nation may give thanks to you for food and drink and all other bodily necessities of life, respect those who labor to produce them, and honor the land and the water from which these good things come. All this we ask in your holy Name. Amen.
And however we pray, offering our gratitude as well as our concerns will help us keep our hearts open and compassionate. Here’s the contemporary form of the prayer For Joy in God’s Creation (p. 814) to help us get to a place of gratitude:
O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.