Ramble for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch pew sheet 27 February 2022
In the face of evil abroad, and the illness of good, loved friends and family at home, we feel helpless to do anything except pray. But then a nagging voice asks, and this is a legitimate question, what good does prayer do against these forces?
In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable about an unjust judge. A widow who had been on the receiving end of his unfair decisions, pestered him until she wore him out and at last ruled in her favour. Jesus told this parable, Luke explains, so that “people should always pray and not faint.”
But how will prayer ward off fainting, ward off despair that things will ever change for the better?
There are three traditional answers. The most simple is that if you have enough faith, God will grant your request. One problem with that is that when your request isn’t granted, you think that you didn’t have enough faith and promptly lose what little faith you did have. Another answer is that we turn from self-absorption to look instead to our neighbour in need of prayer. To their practical needs. And then, thirdly, in the same way our focus switches from us to God to whom we’re praying. We look, as the writer to Hebrews says (12:2) “to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”.
I’m not a diplomat (you can say that again!), or the US 1st Airborne Division, or whoever might bring relief to Ukraine. I’m not an eminent researcher who has found a magic bullet against cancer. All I am is someone who prays anyway, who strives to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4) And I (1 Peter 5) “Give all my worries and cares to God, for he cares about me.”