Caught in the Whirlwind, We Pray

A young friend of mine posted this on Facebook: “What is our nation coming to that a Black man is killed this way by police?”

I understand her indignation; our country is supposed to be different. But, with a moment’s more thought she would have realized that America has been in this painful place all along. From its founding, our country has combined high aspirations for human equality with ongoing gross inequality—some overt, some covert.

Perhaps we are reaping the whirlwind that rises from the seeds of turmoil we have planted: racial inequality, income inequality, hyper-individualism rather than caring for each other, glorification of physical power and violence rather than the quiet strength of integrity and wisdom.

Bible-readers know that sin will persist until Jesus returns to establish God’s kingdom in its fullness. We do not believe that God promises to protect us from all the consequences of our sins. We do believe and we teach that God will resurrect us, even from the death we bring on ourselves.

Sin will persist, but that does not excuse our persisting in sin. We who pray “Your will be done on earth as in heaven” must not neglect to do our best to live and act in alignment with God’s will. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:36-39) We abide by those commandments when we model ourselves on a Savior who gave his life for the sake of all, including those who did not love him back.

So here I am, just one person, grounded in my home because of COVID-19, asking God to show me what I should be doing. And into my mind comes an account from Mark’s gospel (Mark 9:14-29). A father has brought his son to Jesus for healing, but Jesus is away, and so it is up to the disciples to attempt to heal him. The son is plagued by a demon, his father says, that mutes his speech and convulses his body, endangering his life. Jesus arrives on the scene and finds the disciples at a loss. They are failing and frustrated.

Mark continues: “When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked Jesus privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’”

Ah … prayer. I can pray. You can pray. In the face of an overwhelming morass of guilt and pain, in the midst of social division and upheaval, in the face of the intractable, we can pray. And not just to make ourselves feel better, but because, as this gospel account shows, God uses prayer to make things happen. We may not see the way forward, but God does.

Tell God what’s on your heart, tell God what you want. Cry out to God out of your anger (if you’re angry), helplessness (if you feel helpless), frustration (if you’re frustrated), or fear (if you’re afraid). God’s compassion is infinite, and he will hear you and care about you, even amidst the world’s massive needs. But also leave time to be quiet and listen. God may well have something to say to you. God may show you a step you can take, a way you can be part of the work of healing our broken nation.

Sitting at home alone? You can pray. We can pray. Stuck in the house with your family? You can pray together. Getting together with fellow Esperanzans or other Christian friends for a driveway dinner, you can pray together out loud. Let the neighbors hear!

And listen, too. God may have guidance for you: an action to take, a way you can be a force for justice and one who spreads love.

Remember, Esperanza Lutheran Church, our name is Hope!

Praying for you for health of body and strength of faith,

Pastor Carol