Candle Lighting Prayers against gun violence

These prayers are suggested for use during a candlelight (and prayer?) vigil. They are  prayers said while lighting the main candle. This selection is written for multiple readers, or you may choose as many/few selections as is appropriate for your use.

This set of prayers is adapted from a community non-denominational service against gun violence, see the credits at the end.

Note that the red asterisk [ ** ] is a “breath mark” or a pause mark where the reader make take a short pause while reading.

Candlelight Vigil Prayers

Reader 1

We light this candle in remembrance of the victims of gun violence, both those who have been injured and those who have been killed, in our nation and especially [location.] **

We hold their memories dear. **

We treasure those lives permanently altered through injury or those taken in senseless acts of violence, **

and we pray that they might find rest and peace. **

May their lives continue to make a difference in our world. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Light, heal our broken hearts.


Reader 1

We light this candle in remembrance of the families and friends of the victims of gun violence in our nation and especially [location.] **

Comfort those who mourn. **

Dry the tears of those who weep. **

Sustain those who feel diminished. **

Impart courage to the hearts of those who feel helpless. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Peace, sustain our broken hearts.


Reader 3

We light this candle in remembrance of all communities torn apart by gun violence. **

We are too familiar with places like Columbine High School and Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Roseburg, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas, Orlando, Florida.  ** **

The memory of them is intolerable. Each of these incidents of violence affects all of us in our daily lives and work. **

Grant us strength to pursue a voice of love. **

Renew our resolve to respect the dignity of all human beings. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Comfort, encourage our broken hearts.


Reader 4

We light this candle in remembrance of first responders, including police, fire
and rescue personnel who witness the horror of gun violence while in service to
our communities, and for all those with responsibility for law enforcement. **

We give thanks for their call to protect and serve and to seek justice, which is inspirational
to others, **

and we pray that their emotional wounds will be healed. **
Together we pray.
All: God of Courage, inspire our broken hearts.


Reader 5

We light this candle for those lives taken by gun violence through suicide, **

and also for those lives taken through accidental shootings, **

especially when those shootings involve children. **  **

Console and strengthen those whose despair is great. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Mercy, comfort our broken hearts.


Reader 6

We light this candle in remembrance of all people impacted by gun violence, **

as gun violence knows no boundaries but can affect all nationalities, races, cultures, genders, and socioeconomic classes; **

it effects us regardless of who we choose to love, and those who choose to love us; **

it can affect us where we live, where we worship, where we work, where we study, and where we play. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Love, transform our broken hearts.


Reader 7

We light this candle for those who have committed acts of gun violence and for their families, in our nation and especially [location.]  **

We remember those suffering from mental illness who have gone untreated,  **

we remember those suffering from loneliness and isolation. **

We pray for those who would use guns, power and violence rather than respect and dignity to reconcile differences. **

Grant us the strength to pursue a voice of love. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Forgiveness, enlighten our broken hearts.


Reader 8

We light this candle to pray for ourselves and others in our lives who have been touched by gun violence. **

During the silent pause, we invite you to offer the names either silently or aloud of those for whom you pray. (the group / crowd / congregation is invited to add their personal names aloud or remember them in their hearts.) ** ** ** ** **

Together we pray.
All: God of Astonishing Mercy, Compassion and Immeasurable Love, restore our broken hearts and enliven our confidence to find new ways to revive our world to become a world of peace.

So be it.


An appropriate song:

This Little Light of Mine
sung by Odetta







credit: prayer service bulletin: “A Moral Call: People of Faith Confronting the Tragedy of Gun Violence.” Sunday, December 13, 2015, 2015. First Unitarian Universalist Society, Burlington, VT.









A Litany For Gun Violence

(This litany was written for Gun Violence Sabbath – December 13, 2015. It is appropriate any day, and any place where we are confronted by the senseless evil of murder by guns. This Litany was composed by Rt. Rev. Steven T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Vermont.)

Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence.

For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers and aliens, and those known to you alone,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Barack, our President, and [n.], our Governor, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.

For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.

For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died, (more than 30,000 this year,) in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care.

For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change.

For your dream of love and harmony,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ.


The intercessor / reader / leader reads the text in plain text, and the group / congregation joins in reading the bold type. The italicized type is optional, or the numbers can be adjusted by year – the 30,000 shown is for 2015.)

A suitable hymn:

Abide With Me
hymn tune: EVENTIDE



Abide With Me
lyrics by Henry F. Lyte, 1847

based on Luke 24:29

“But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”


  1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
  2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see—
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
  3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
    What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
    Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
    Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
  4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
    Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
    Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
    I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
  5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
    Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.






Where the Millionaire Preachers Get it Wrong Every Time

Quite simply: if you do it right, there’s no money to be made.

This morning I was listening to a song by the Claire Lynch Band called Children of Abraham, and as most spiritual music does, the song explained it all.

The first line of the refrain for the song is:

Children of Abraham come by it honest,
Living on nothing but a lick and a promise.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase “a lick and a promise,” that is southern speak for “being so poor that we have nothing but wishes to live on.” The Children of Abraham came from intense, mud-digging poverty, not great wealth. And nothing about wealth or the path to gain it will do anything to make one spiritually better. If nothing else, it gets in the way.

The story of the song is from the book of Genesis-Exodus, of Moses leading the Children of Israel into the wilderness and they wandered around – pretty lost – for 40 days. (Biblical stories tend to work in a 40 day time frame.) This after some pretty huge promises from God to Abraham about this great nation that God and Abraham are putting together.

One hitch: Abraham has to do it all without God’s direct help. There’s the challenge: Not money or Lear jets or prayer cloths or books and DVD sales, but the pure survival of an entire nation, while God watches to see how you pull it off.

Imagine yourself being there: lost, and so lost that even your leader doesn’t know where you are going except “out there.” He’s led on by nothing but grains of sand as a promise that something better lies beyond the desert. And if you ask him … all he can stutter back to you is, “out there.”

Here, Claire brings the song into our own life, and that is how we all – we Children of Abraham – continue on. We want to fly like the eagles borne on the wind but we can’t do that just yet. So what does the singer pray for in the song? Patience. Not better wings. Not a swifter wind. Not more eagle-like strength. The singer prays for the patience to stick with it until the knowledge, the strength, and the strong wind comes along.

And that is the tough part of being a spiritual person: the time when there’s nothing around in any direction but hot dry dusty air… the desert of the heart. And even though what we may want is oasis, what we really need to get through is patience.

It has nothing to do with mission seeds of as much money as you have in your 401k. It’s absolutely nothing to do with a theology of prosperity – one of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard any TV preacher spout. Being this child of Father Abram that she describes is all about sticking to it, with nothing but grains of sand in your pocket to go by.

And living on a lick and a promise.

Keep the faith!
– Amen


Children of Abrahamlyrics
– sung by Claire Lynch and the Claire Lynch Band

Back when the blessing was only a dream,
Old Father Abram was looking at me.
I’m one of the many stars in the sky:
Don’t care if I stumble, I’m learning to fly.
A token of promise, like one grain of sand,
was all that he needed, to enter the land.
And those who were chosen to answer the call,
will follow his footsteps, forsaking it all.

Children of Abraham come by it honest,
living on nothing but a lick and a promise,
flying on the wings of a prayer.

The young grow weary, they run and they faint,
I want to be strong, Lord, teach me to wait.
I’ll soar like an eagle, borne on the wind,
Going wherever the Spirit will send.