Next Sunday, 14 suburban churches will hold a day of prayer for the unemployed and underemployed. The timing couldn't be better. Congress is still trying to figure out how or whether to fund continued unemployment benefits even as Pennsylvania is imposing new rules that will limit eligibility for benefits.
I'm going to publish the prayer here with the urge that all places of worship consider incorporating it into their services.
Spearheading the effort is Cheryl Spaulding, who heads Joseph's People, a network of support groups for the unemployed that she and a fellow member of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Downingtown started nearly two decades ago in the throes of an earlier recession. Spaulding said she hopes the prayer service will help people remember the unemployed and as well as those who have taken jobs well below their skills and experience just to make ends meet.
"These people are being forgotten," she said.
Her belief is that society and government wants to overlook these casualties of the recession, particularly the long-term unemployed. I've met people who have been out of work for more than two years. They are not lazy or incompetent. The average length of unemployment is now 40.1 weeks, down from November, but up from a year ago. There are 12.8 million unemployed Americans, and the number nearly doubles if people forced to work part time because they can't find full time work, and people too discouraged to look for work are included.
I'm planning to cut out this prayer and hang it up on my desk, so I can pray for the people I've written about, especially one woman who moved to Las Vegas in hopes of making a brighter future. She and her boyfriend ended up living in a car in a Good Will parking lot. Haven't heard from her lately, but I hope she's OK.
It might be useful for congregations to ask anyone who has been out of work or who has a family member out of work in the past year or so to raise a hand, prior to the prayer. You can click here to go to the page of the organization sponsoring the day of prayer. St. Joseph's plans to collect prayer requests from congregants who are seeking work, or who hope for success at a job interview, and then send those requests out via email to the congregation's prayer circle.
The prayer, and the introduction to it, are below:
The most harmful and hurtful aspect of losing your job is the feeling of being lost, alone and forgotten. During this Day of Prayer, we hope that we can share the painful burden carried by these people and let them know that they are not alone and that we are praying for them and for their families. Here is a Prayer for Employment. Please pray for these people today and throughout the coming weeks of Easter.
Lord, there are many people in our nation who are in need of a steady job with sufficient wages to care for themselves and their families.
Help these people remain diligent in their job search. Give them the confidence they need to succeed and the perseverance to continue on when they become discouraged.
Teach me to encourage those seeking employment and to offer them whatever assistance I can give.
Open the hearts of those responsible for hiring and for the care of unemployed people in industry and in government that they may carry out their work with compassion.