In the church I attend, populated largely by people who might describe themselves as left-leaning and politically aware, the prayers have for months included a prayer for the families of American soldiers who died that week. The names of the soldiers are read with appropriate, sometimes moving, solemnity. Inevitably those names trigger empathetic thoughts: "David—that's my brother's name." "I wonder if Kathryn's parents called her Katie." "William has the same last name as my college roommate."
As the names are read I try to imagine each of them and their sorrowing families, holding them in that moment of spoken prayer as brothers and sisters whose sufferings touch us all.
Marilyn McEntyre is a fellow at the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. She teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and is author of What’s in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause.