Prayers on the 15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

The following prayers were prepared on the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  A few adaptations have been made as they help us observe this 15th anniversary on 9-11-2016.


“O God, Tender and Just”

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United Church of Christ initiated a “response’ link on its website.  Within day, dozens – and eventually, thousands- of people wrote in to express their feelings, to share thoughts, and to offer prayers and other liturgical responses to the attacks.  The postings reflected a wide variety of responses.  But despite very different concerns and opinions, many respondents shared two common convictions.  One was that the most effective response to terrorism must begin with knowledge and understanding, not violence.  And a second was that we must place our ultimate hope for security in God, not in principalities and powers.   Many of these reflections and prayers and songs were gathered into a book edited by Elizabeth C. Nordbeck, O God Tender and Just:  Reflections and Responses after September 11, 2001.  United Church of Christ. On this 15th anniversary of those attacks, you can request a copy of this resource by contacting UCC Resources at (800) 537-3394, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. EST.  or by email at Order this resource at no cost to you. Your contributions to Our Church’s Wider Mission make this possible. 

Call to Worship

Blessings without number
Joy immeasurable
Love unconditional
Arms everlasting and open
Comfort in every hour and every need
Acceptance – just as we are
Mercy in the face of failure:
These things, unmerited, God grants us abundantly.
Come, let us worship the God of our salvation!


We are strangers to one another, O God, but never to you.  You know the longing of our souls, the sighs too deep for words.  In sleeping and in waking, in quiet and in confusion, in despair and in hope, in silence and in sound, you hear the cries of our hearts.

Come this day, O God, and dwell among us.  Come, and turn our sorrows into singing, our cares into commitment, our bleak memories into bright promise.  Come, and make all things new.

Prayer of Confession

(This prayer alludes to both the complexity of the event on September 11 and its aftermath, and the confusion that many have experienced as they struggle to know what to feel and think)

Merciful God, we gather on this day of remembrance
   to confess our sins —
But we are not sure what to confess.

We were not there on September 11.  We could not imagine.  We did not choose. 
We did not know.

Yet we know now that, somehow, this event involves us– now and here,
   even in these peaceful pews where “atrocity” seems a world apart,
   a word made for someone else.
And so we struggle to admit our complicity in sin:

We confess that as a church, and as individuals,
   we have believed ourselves to be unique and inviolable.
We have averted our eyes before evil in its myriad forms.
We have embraced ignorance and indifference,
   and shunned understanding.
We have acted as if different means deficient.
We have given in to anger.
We have admired hostility and revenge, and rejected compassion and forgiveness.

We were not there, O God, on that day.
But we are here today, and we have choices before us.
Today we ask that you will help us claim the memories we want to forget,
   and let them guide us.

Remind us, we pray, to seek Christ’s face in the faces of strangers,
   and among those of whom we don’t approve, and whom we don’t like.
Remind us that Christ loves each one equally and unconditionally,
   and that, although we will surely fail, we are called to do the same.
Remind us that you are the God of all, not only of some.
Forgive us, we pray, when we are less than loving, and mold us into the
   true sons and daughters of your heart, so that all our words and deeds
   may cry out:
   Your will be done, in peace.  AMEN

Assurance of Pardon

Hear these words of comfort:
In Jesus Christ, God accepts us as we are.
In the midst of pain,
When memories will not heal,
When anger overtakes us,
When hostility displaces hospitality,
god comforts.  God understands and forgives.
Listen, and rejoice in the love of God that passes understanding.

Prayers Of and For the People

(A variation of this prayer was used in services immediately after September 11, 2001.  The prayer expresses feelings many shared at that time – and still do in the present – and it calls upon God to help us in our confusion and dismay).

Who are we, O God, that you are mindful of us?
We are the bystanders, the ones left disquieted and helpless.
the things we have feared have come upon us;
   what we have dreaded has happened,
And we are filled with confusion.

Who are we, Lord, that you are mindful of us?
We are the wounded and hurting, the ones whose groans pour out like water.
We are crushed in body and in spirit;
   we find no solace among the living,
And we are filled with fear.

Who are we, O God, that you are mindful of us?
We are the survivors, the ones who seek to understand and to act.
We are burdened by a cacophony of angry voices;
   we find no help in human wisdom,
And we are filled with despair.

Who are we, O God?
In these times of trial there is much we do not know.
But this we know:
Whoever we are, whatever we do, you are mindful of us.
Your everlasting arms will comfort all who come to you,
And your judgment will fall down upon those who do not follow your ways of love.

Help us, we pray, to live peaceably with the things we know, and the things we cannot know.
Grant us the grace to speak hope in the midst of despair.
Grant us the courage to return love for hatred.
Grant us the wisdom to believe that vengeance is yours, not ours.
And grant us the compassion to minister to those for whom despair and hatred are the bitter fuel that keeps body and soul together.

We pray in the deep confidence that this world is yours, and all that is in it.  And we pray in the name of the One who came to save us, the Prince of Peace—even Jesus Christ our brother and our savior.  AMEN. 

Prayers Of and For the People

(This litany offers prayers for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as for others directly and indirectly affected.  Brief silence may be observed after each petition.)

One:  We pray for the innocent, whose lives were lost swiftly and in violence.
All:  May they forever find shelter with you.

One:  We pray for the faithful, whose lives were lost in service to others.
All:  May they forever find shelter with you.

One:  We pray for the wounded, whose lives are damaged in body and spirit.
All:  Comfort and heal them, and give them strength.

One:  We pray for the young, whose lives are marred by anxiety and loss.
All:  Comfort them, and give them peace.

One:  We pray for the fearful, whose lives are truncated by worry and confusion.
All:  Comfort them, and give them peace.

One:  We pray for the angry, whose lives are fueled by hatred.
All:  Show them your way of love.

One:  We pray for the poor, whose lives are fueled by hungers of body and mind.
All:  Fill their emptiness with abundance.

One:  We pray for the powerful, whose choices signal life or death for others.
All:  Grant them wisdom and compassion.

One:  We pray for the peacemakers, whose lives are daily in harm’s way.
All:  Protect them, and grant them mercy in time of trial.

One:  These things and ll things we ask in the name of the One who came to offer us life, and life abundant, even Jesus Christ our Savior.  AMEN.

REFLECTION in the form of PRAYER

(This reflection addresses itself to God, lifting up some of the global problems and difficulties that both preceded and followed the events of September 11; it places these in a wider historical and biblical context, and asks for God’s help.  While it is clearly a Christian prayer, its broad references to “God’s people” are intended to include people of other (Abrahamic) faiths, as well.)

O God, you have been our dwelling-place in all generations.
We come before you on this day of remembrance, seeking your presence.  What we have, we bring:  our memories and our pain; our hopes and our fears; our doubts and our certainties.  Hear now the prayers of your people:

O God, you have been our dwelling-place in all generation.
We lift up before you a generation ravaged by war and injustice, and brutalized by the rage these both breed. 
Long ago your people heard that peace and justice should nourish the lands like an ever flowing stream.  Forgetting this, we have substituted swords for plowshares, power and privilege for justice.  Righteous God, in your wisdom reveal to your children not the path of power and might, but the hard road of servanthood and sharing and sacrifice.

O God, you have been our dwelling-place in all generation.
We lift up before you a generation that struggles at the brink of despair.
Long ago you led your children Abraham and Sarah, and their children, and their children’s children, on a wilderness journey, sustained by the promise of a future free from wandering and wanting.  Forgetting these things, your children today fear even to begin the journeys to which they are called, knowing how far there is to go, and how dangerous the path.  Companion God, befriend us on our many journeys, encircle us with your everlasting arms, and keep our eyes on the prize you have promised.

O God, you have been our dwelling-place in all generation.
We lift up before you a generation in search of leadership.
Long ago you sent the world a savior, whose life of love showed us a better way.
Forgetting his example, your children have placed their trust in violence and empty promises.  Loving God, in your gentleness free us – and all who are in positions of authority –from the need to control and dominate, to be first and strongest, lest we come to believe such things are both good and possible.

Lord, you have been our dwelling-place in all generations.
We lift up before you a generation that by many different names calls itself the people of God.
Long ago your Son called all the people to become one.  Forgetting his prayer, we have by fission and fracture lifted up our own narrow visions as final.  Triune God, in your wholeness make us whole, and empower this rent body to work for the glory and peace of your realm.

God of the past, and the present, and the future,
We in this small corner of your vast globe lift up before you ourselves.
Long ago your Son commissioned those whom he loved to be lights in a faltering and broken world; and they went forth with joy.  We are not one generation, but many; we are not one race, or nationality, or faith, but many.  Yet we share common cause in our desire to be yours.  We have not forgotten what our forebears knew well:  that the greatest joy of all is to do your work, and to discover your loving will.  Holy God, grant to us the costs and joys of true disciples.

Now we ask your blessing and your commissioning as we face a future that is both shadowed with ambiguity and fertile with possibility.
If we are anxious, may we recall your assurance.
If we are lonely, may we feel your presence.
If we are confused, may we trust your Word.
Be for us, we pray, the strength in our hands, the compassion in our hearts, the wisdom in our minds, and the love empowering our lives.
In Jesus’ name, and through his holy grace, we pray.  AMEN.

Closing Prayer of Comfort and Commitment

(This prayer evokes images of September 11 and events following, and combines them with the idea of a living “green space” on the site of the World Trade Center which by 2016 has become reality)

Be present with us, O God, for we would be your people.
Prepare our hearts for loving, we pray.
   When joy is captive to pain,
    When dreams lie buried, and hope turns to ashes —
   When brittle memories of the past crowd out the future’s bright promise,
Bring us into your light, and soften our hearts for
   the seeds of your grace.
Make us like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.

Be present with us, O God, for we would be your people.
Open our minds for new learning, we pray.
   When fears narrow our vision,
   When our longing for security makes us deaf to the cries of the dispossessed,
   When all we know seems to define all that is–
Surprise us with your light and truth, and ready us for revelation each day.
Make us like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.

Be present with us, O God, for we would be your people.
Prune our rebellious spirits for growing, we pray.
   When we seek power instead of peace,
   When we offer to the hungry and hurting blame instead of bread,
   When we refuse to walk together, neighbor with neighbor, in all your ways—
Cut down the wanton, wayward places in us, and bend us to your will.
Make us like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.
Be our light for dark days,
Our rain for parched seasons,
Our wind for scattering seeds of new life,
And send us forth in Jesus’s name to serve.  AMEN.


For all who now leave here comforted and emboldened to live by your Word of truth,
We ask your benediction.

May they go on their way to bless bread for the hungry in body and spirit;
May they go on their way to bring Easter into the lives of the hopeless and hurting;

May they go on their way to be your heart and hands in this unbelieving and forgetful world.  AMEN.

Categories: OGHS Stories

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