I struggle to pray sometimes. The words I need to say so desperately evade me. My emotions seem to clog my consciousness. Last week, as I near the end of a short run, I stumbled over a crack in the pavement, and fell hard. Aching and stunned, I reached for the cellphone that had flown from my hand. Neighbors, often out working in their yards, were away or had gone inside. Children had finished their play. My wife, less than two hundred feet away, did not know I had fallen. Briefly, I feared that I would not be able to get up. My head too had struck the concrete and I feared that I might lose consciousness. First-aid training received years ago trained me to evaluate myself before moving. Slowly, cautiously, I struggled to my feet and stumbled the few remaining steps to home. The fear that no one would hear or notice I had fallen had frightened me. I prayed in that moment for consciousness and lucidity. But sometimes, it is hard to pray. I, and perhaps you, wonder if God hears and if he notices. Prayers like Psalm 102 tell us that others in millenia past have shared our fears. Narratives in Scripture describe frustrated faith, but also describe the grieving love of a Creator-God who pursues justice and who does notice the pain of the assaulted, the agony of the deserted, and the grief of those whose loved ones have died. Those prayers and narratives help me regain my voice. I hope that they will help you, too.
O God who communicates, The beauty of your creation entrances us when we contemplate it. The rugged mountains, the surging river, the waving grain, the shadings of the sunset seize our attention and impress us with a sense of the power that formed them. The narratives of the Bible introduce us to men and women who struggled in many ways like we do. They too marveled at the world around them. They also sometimes viewed other people with suspicion. They lied, and they stole. They loved, and they lost. Prophets spoke courageously, but at times wished they could remain silent. They witnessed abuse, assault, and slander; some of them trembled under those attacks. Psalmists and Levites sang praise, but also voiced lament – they grieved at injustice and wondered where you were in their hours of need. They cried for relief, and anticipated your bursting in to avenge and to make right. Did they freeze, paralyzed by fear, afraid to speak? Did they excuse wrong? Did they suffer as they recalled how they had wronged others? Lord, we see the beauty of your creation, but we also see cities devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. We see buildings crumbling, neglected as they decay, becoming a haven for predators who prey on the vulnerable and the weak. We want recovery. We crave justice. We want you to come in judgment, but we also want time to repent and to restore. We have heard your message? Have you heard our cry? When we are on the ground, injured and bleeding, we wonder if we can get up. Please give us vision, discernment, love, and patience. Teach us to forgive. Help us to understand your will and our plight. Open our eyes to see your hand reaching to help us. Open our ears to hear your message of hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.