Treasure Valley Prays

Fire and Smoke

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.”
Psalm 141: 2

Almost all the evening prayers service I’ve either led or attended have included this verse. Some churches have even gone so far as to actually burn it as the service was unfolding. It was and is a symbol of our prayers metaphorically rising to God to be heard.

Today as I write these words we are surrounded by smoke; our air quality is diminished and we are having to stay inside. Of course, further west the source of the smoke is the wildfires that are burning uncontrollably in California, Oregon and Washington. It’s become a pattern that these are the days of smoke and fire.

None of us likes it and I count myself as one who dislikes it intensely. Perhaps because I experienced fire and even evacuation from my home of Holden Village five years ago. My hands still sweat when the smoke arrives, and this year is no exception.

It would seem that our prayers and thoughts and meditations are within this smoke, just like they were thought to be in the incense burned by the ancient Israelites and churches throughout the world. My morning meditation has been on all the folk who are suffering. Just last week I was up in eastern Washington and heard of the fires that destroyed two small towns that I know well. Friends of mine have lost a home that has been standing for 125 years. My sister and her family are outside of Portland packed and ready to move if necessary. Too many are just where they are and must be ready.

We pray in the midst of the smoke for some relief, for the fall rains to begin again. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves then we are also not helping. We continue to drive and put carbon into the air. It continues to hold in the heat and makes the fires possible.

His is not the way it should be. It is time, yes past time for us to start caring for the planet. In the beginning God made us stewards of this the only planet that can sustain life as we know it. What did we do? Well it wasn’t exactly stewardship. It was in fact something quite different as we choose not to care for the land. We choose to take the minerals out, without thinking of the consequences. The smoke around us are the consequences of us thinking that this planet’s resources are limitless.

To stop the smoke, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to unite as a people to care for this beautiful planet. God did not intend for us to be abusers, but wise caretakers. God calls upon us to pray and act. Our prayers will be for our families and friends, for the incredible fire fighters who sacrifice their lives sometime. Our actions need to be those that prayerfully change our behavior to help this stricken planet. In the midst of Covid and the fires and smoke blanketing our lives let our prayers and action rise like incense!


Holy One, you gave us a task, to care for this planet, we are failing in that task and need help. We need your help to inspire us to care, to prayerfully act in your name to make sure our forests and grasslands are cared for properly. We need your Spirit to empower us to love the planet more than we love ourselves. Amen.

Picture of John Hergert

John Hergert

Interim ELCA Pastor

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