by Katherine Smith, originally published by Baptist News Global
Praying for the care of God’s creation is always worthwhile but has never been more urgent. But how should we pray?
Sunday, Sept. 1, is the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. With the growing climate crisis and continued dismantling of environmental protections, just how do we pray for creation? The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 can give us guidance (with thanks to Susan Bratton, professor of environmental science at Baylor University, and author of four books on Christianity, spirituality and environmental ethics, for her insights):
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The “poor in spirit” recognize their own sin and complicity in the growing climate crisis. They also perceive their own impotence in the face of the seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead. They struggle daily to care for creation in meaningful ways and to help others do the same. As they seek forgiveness from God and from the created world, they also continue the work of reconciliation begun in the Garden.
We pray for strength as much will be needed in the troubling days ahead.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The entire world is crying out in pain. Species are dying out in vast numbers. Habitats are being lost or purposely destroyed. People suffer greatly as the monsoons come too soon or too late or not at all. Lives have been lost in the heat that is unprecedented and yet will only get more extreme.
We mourn our own continued complicity in this pain as we watch creation suffer. We look for the hope and comfort that only Christ can bring.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
The beauty of the “meek” of our earth sustains us. Millions of trees continuously soak up the carbon that is blanketing our planet. Our oceans silently envelop what toxins they can in an effort to replenish the earth. Bacteria continuously work to break down our waste so that we might live. Countless people restore the soil, plant the trees, pull the plastics from the oceans, turn off the lights, walk to their jobs, go without – all in an effort to “walk humbly with their God” (Micah 6:8) and the earth.
We bless the meek of creation by joining in their efforts.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
As Christians, we should be leading the “thirst for righteousness” in our churches and in our communities. We should be horrified when we see and hear more and more cases of destruction of this planet. We should be the first to rage against environmental racism. We should be first to volunteer when help is needed. Our churches should be leaders in stewardship practices.
We must act.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Images of mercy surround us as we care for creation: the restoration of altered ecosystems, the removal of toxins from damaged lands, the development of community gardens in “food deserts,” the cleansing of streams and waterways to refresh our lives.
We pray for more acts of mercy as the numbers of environmental refugees climb and our political systems falter with the magnitude of the climate crisis.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Our hearts struggle for purity in the face of the grace of God, and yet we are torn by a sinful world that cannot understand this gift. We weep over the loss of polar bears, rhinos, bees and butterflies. We want to “save the whales” or “rescue the dolphins,” but our energy is depleted by the daily demands of caring for an aging parent with dementia. We strive to use fewer resources, but we must drive to jobs that pay our rents or mortgages. We may not be able to afford the “organic” or “ethically resourced” foods. Our hearts break for the shameful treatment of refugees at our borders and we want to help, but our resources are limited.
The “pure of heart” care, and care deeply, for creation. They may not be able to help as they would like, but their prayers do not go unheard. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Each day, millions of people around the world care for creation. These quiet “peacemakers” tend our forests, prevent untold illnesses, provide food for the hungry and water for the thirsty, speak against nuclear weapons and help impoverished communities prepare for coming environmental threats.
We thank God for these peacemakers and their countless acts of quiet kindness. We pray for many more to join them.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Scientists are silenced or lose their jobs, peaceful environmental protestors are attacked, indigenous peoples are ignored, youth are ridiculed and heckled and the poor and marginalized suffer. The persecution grows, as do the consequences. The sin and denial of the climate crisis continue to come in conflict with those seeking to repent. We ask forgiveness for our complicity. We ask for courage to stand beside the persecuted. We pray for the grace needed to be persecuted on behalf of all of creation.
God loves this world that God created at the beginning of time. Through our prayers and our actions, we return some of the love that God has bestowed on us. Sept. 1 is one day for Christians around the globe to unite in prayer. Beyond that, our actions on behalf of all of creation are acts of worship we humbly offer to God.