“By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 43:8).
In the 2006 movie Last Holiday, the lead character Georgia, played by the singer/actress Queen Latifah, is a frugal cooking demonstrator at a department store in Louisiana. After a fall at work, she is told that she has a rare brain disease that will kill her within only a few weeks. She cashes in her retirement funds, quits her job, and takes a luxury vacation to a European hotel where one of her favorite celebrity chefs plies his craft. But first, she goes to church. Georgia sings in the choir, and as the group begins to sing, she suddenly shouts out, “Why?!!?“ The cry is her prayer, her call for fire, now captured in the context of a choir’s spiritual. The choir responds to her cry by repeating it as she expands upon it. The whole church is caught up in the rapturous chorus even as Georgia, weighed down by her plaintive prayer, suddenly stops singing and walks out. A second prayer follows, and then a third as the movie nears its end at the resort in Europe.
Georgia, imagined by all to be a wealthy entrepreneur, has become quite popular at the resort because of her wise, witty, humbly but firmly dispensed wisdom. A corrupt retail magnate, seeking to curry favor with two congressmen from Georgia’s own district, discovers that the popular woman actually is a former minor employee at one of his stores. He reveals her identity before the chef and the congressmen, only to have her quietly reply with her truth. His hopes dashed, he takes refuge on a ledge outside a window on an upper floor of the hotel. Georgia and others see him from the parking lot, then she makes her way to the ledge to talk him out his plan to jump to his death. As she sits beside him, she persuades him, and while she is doing so, a fax is rushed to her, telling her that her terminal diagnosis had been in error. As they leave the ledge, she looks up to the heaven and cries out, “You’re so funny. You had me going for a moment there. You’re so wrong.” A mystified onlooker asks, “Who are you talking to?” Her reply is, “God!”
Three prayers give structure to the movie. One opens it with lament. The third concludes it with acknowledgement of God’s grace and a suggestion that God may have a sense of irony and humor as he makes his will known. I thought of the verse with which this post began as I reflected on the movie after my wife and I watched it. In the darkest night of the main character’s life, God’s song was with her – “a prayer to the God of [her] life.” Even as she grieved what she believed to be her imminent death God was showing his love. The character learned from her apparent disaster, and in the end rejoiced in the finding of love and the fulfillment of a long-held dream.
Faith and prayer sustain us in soul-wrenching times. Our prayer need not be formal nor long. Nehemiah prayed a brief silent prayer before answering an emperor’s question. We may question in anger as we seek to understand. I have endured times of testing, and am in the midst of one that has lasted far longer than I expected even now. When such times have ended in the past, a sense of exhilaration and relief has filled me. At times, I too have wanted to laugh at what seemed to be God’s sense of humor. I was impressed while watching the movie how the character communicated her faith naturally and emotionally. She talked with God and wanted to hear his response. In my own experience, it has seemed that the answer to my prayers came at the moment when I had begun to doubt that it ever would.
When we question God’s love, we must keep praying, keep talking to him, as we seek to reconcile our will to his. Are you suffering? Are you doubting? Keep praying, and remember to tell God your grief, how you hurt, and what you believe that he can do. Listen for his song as you lift your prayer to the God of your life.