It really feels like we have approached the last days… I’m preaching tomorrow about how to pray during these times. How can we pray through grief, sorrow, and doubts? I found in Hosea 1:10 an answer to crisis we are facing here and now. Hosea was told to marry a harlot to show Israel that they have acted as harlots. This is because Israel turned away from God. Israel was committing a spiritual harlotry by forsaking the Lord. First the kingdom of the House of Israel, the northern kingdom will fall. the House of Judah, the southern kingdom would at first be saved. But it too would fall. It would come to the point where God would say, “you are not my people and I am not your God.” But God’s love persists through the people of Israel turning away from God. In Hosea 1:10 it is written: “in the place where it was said to them ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10).
What makes one a child of God? People of Israel were chosen by God. They had a covenantal relationship with God. There was Abrahamic (Genesis 15) and Mosaic (Exodus 3) covenant. And the covenant renewed in and through Jesus. Because of the covenant, God will hear people of Israel and God will hear us when we cry out in prayer. Prayer is how we communicate with the living God. In Luke, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. We can certainly pray the Lord’s prayer each and every day in every moment, especially when we don’t know how to pray. But especially when we can’t pray or wonder why we should bother with prayer, it is time to pray. Times like these, we wonder where is God? Why are the innocent dying? Why is there suffering that seems unnecessary? Such questions could lead to sorrow, despair and doubts.
Doubt is “kosher” for faith. What I mean is that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. In the NT, a father comes to Jesus and asks that Jesus, if he is able, to heal his son. Jesus says “If you are able!–All things can be done for the one who believes” (Mark 9:23). Then immediately the father of the sick child cried out “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). As this father prayed, prayer is possible in belief and unbelief. This man said, I believe, help my unbelief. He believed and had doubts or at the same time also didn’t believe. Sounds strange. But in reality, we believe and we don’t believe, have doubts, questions, and yet our faith will endure through prayer.
To this end, I suggest praying through psalms at times there are no words of your own to pray with. Use words of Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2). Pray using the words of Psalm 85: “Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away our indignation toward us” (Psalm 85:1-4).
If you want to hold on to your faith when you feel you couldn’t possibly believe any more, pray. When you start to doubt, pray. Pray not to hide from the world and to remain inactive in the face of injustice. Pray that God would give us courage, hope and faith. It may be for some that praying is not desirable, feeling too distant from a state where one could pray. You can’t force prayer, you can’t force faith, and why would you want to. But if you want to try to hold on to your faith in these days when it seems we have or are nearing the end of times, then try praying to God, because if there is a God, and if that God is a living God, God hears prayers and if nothing else is changed in the world, something in us will change. That something in us that changes can bring about change in the world.
Few weeks ago, I was blessed with this Franciscan benediction after a prayer meeting for racial reconciliation. I leave you with this Franciscan benediction.
A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.