When Soldiers realize that they cannot repel the enemy’s attack with their current number of personnel or supply of ammunition, they call for fire. They contact their higher headquarters and request field artillery fires against their enemy’s position or ask that close air support strafe the enemy from the sky. Then they wait. They hope, and perhaps pray, that assistance will arrive in time.
When we pray, we may pray in an emotional context that very roughly resembles that of the Soldiers under attack. The “enemy’s” attacks may have exhausted our emotional, spiritual, physical, and even financial resources. We call for fire, and we wait.
I have been in the hospital several hundred miles from home most of the last two weeks. During most of that time, my access the Internet or my computer was limited to my cellphone; frankly, I was too ill to want to write much. I did pray; calling for fire in an unexpected time of sickness was one of few life-lines I retained. Visitors encouraged, and medical personnel treated, but for the most part I resisted the attack against my health and prayed.
As I began to feel a little better, I resumed my daily Bible reading and meditated on the plight of Joseph. What did the young man pray when his older brothers cast him into a pit, then pulled him out to sell him to slavers headed for Egypt? What did he pray, when falsely accused, he was thrown into prison? What did he pray during the years, while separated from his family, he gained social standing in Egypt? We don’t know. We know that during his darkest hours, “the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper” (Genesis 39:23). We know that when he finally was reunited with his brothers and recognized their very realistic fear of him, that he said, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with your selves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life . . . So it was not you who sent me here, but God “(Genesis 45:5,8). During the darkest hours, Joseph continued to hope and to believe. He trusted that help would arrive.
Joseph waited for years for the answer to his call for fire. He could have settled at some points earlier. He was released from prison and given an influential government position. He married and had two sons. Yet, as his later response demonstrates, he missed his father, and especially his younger brother. He continued to hope and to trust.
Like Joseph, we too may call for fire, and the rescue we desire may not arrive quickly. Let us, like Joseph, remained focused on the essential elements of our call for fire. Let us hope, and trust, and continue to pray.
God of hope, defeat pessimism in our hearts. Help us to focus on what is good, and to remember what truly is valuable. When it seems that rescue will not arrive, help us to remember Joseph, and other heroes of faith, who trusted when seemed they had no reason to do so. Give us strength, hope, the capacity to trust, and a renewed focus on him in whose name we pray, Jesus, Amen.