Presbyterian hymn-writer offers a prayer for Afghanistan set to ‘Away in a Manger’

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette’s latest is ‘We Pray for Afghanistan’s People Today’

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a Presbyterian hymn-writer and the parish associate at First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, New York, has written new lyrics to an old hymn for the people of Afghanistan.

“We Pray for Afghanistan’s People Today” is set to “CRADLE SONG,” the tune for “Away in a Manger.”

“This hymn,” Winfrey Gillette wrote, “is written to a gentle, peaceful tune for a people who need gentleness, peace, justice and human rights in their land (as we all do, in our lands).”

“It is a prayer for people who suddenly find themselves as desperate refugees, people who feel trapped and hopeless, vulnerable people, and girls and women whose dreams have been shattered,” she wrote. “It is a prayer for people who know that war is a terrible thing and who have experienced many losses.”

“It is a prayer for children who have grown up knowing nothing but war,” she wrote. “It is a prayer for all in the land — and all of us in this land — who long for peace and justice in every place, and especially right now in Afghanistan.”

Winfrey Gillette grants permission for free use of the hymn, including in online worship services.

We Pray for Afghanistan’s People Today

CRADLE SONG (“Away in a Manger”)

We pray for Afghanistan’s people today:

for those who are fleeing — who know they can’t stay,

for those who face terror by day and by night,

for those who can’t leave and whose dreams can’t take flight.


We pray for the people who fear what’s in store,

for dreamers and poets who grieve a closed door.

for those who are hiding so no one will see

the people they are — or who they hope to be.


We pray for girls facing a world they don’t know,

who still long to read and to learn and to grow.

We pray for young women who live with the fear

their bodies, their voices, may soon disappear.


We pray for young children whose first lullabies

were bombs and explosions and wounded ones’ cries—

and for those who served there, who see how it ends,

who ponder their service, who grieve for lost friends.


We weep for the places where war leads to war.

We pray for your hand there to heal and restore!

Bless all who seek justice and peace as your way.

We pray for Afghanistan’s people today.


Tune: William James Kirkpatrick, 1895

Text: Copyright © 2021 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

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