Monday, December 07, 2015

Prayer as a Response to Crisis

King Asa of Judah prayed as he prepared to lead his army against a more powerful military force: “Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, ‘LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11). The king appeals to God’s covenant with his people but also notes God’s love for justice with the observation that God will “help the powerless against the mighty.” He calls for God to remember his relationship with the people of Judah and the lineage of David. We remind both ourselves and God of our relationship when we pray. This past week, as many stated that they were praying for families of the victims of the shooting in San Bernadino, California, others scoffed at the concept of prayer as a response to crisis. The Bible testifies that prayer indeed is an appropriate response, when combined with faith, genuine concern, and faith-based action. Terrorists and other criminals often attack the vulnerable and people engaged in activity (like celebrating at a Christmas party) that compromises their alertness. When we pray, like Asa we confess our helplessness, but also ask for guidance so that we may respond effectively and appropriately. When we pray, we call upon God to remember his zeal for justice. We ask him to make right what has been violated. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, and that fact must remind us that whatever we do from that point, we must remember that we act as Christians. Some seem to perceive all prayer in response to crisis as glib and meaningless. Perhaps some do say they are praying or will pray as a reflexive response, much as we say, "I'm great!" in response to a greeting of "Hi! How are you?" even when we may be having a very bad day. However, I'm convinced that many pray in challenging times with a conviction that our creative God will find a way to execute justice and bring right to an scenario that is entirely wrong. Let us be sure to pray if we say we will pray, and be sure to follow our prayer with positive actions. Our response will impress others as the way that Christians react, whether we respond well or poorly. May we pray and act in response to crisis and injustice in ways that testify to our neighbors about the power of God and the love of Christ.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Taking Time to See the Greatness of God

God’s spectacular creation has overwhelmed me at times. The total darkness of an overcast night in the Mojave desert far from any light, the snow-capped mountains that surround Kabul, Afghanistan, the crystal blue of the Adriatic sea, and the myriads of stars visible in the sky above Arizona’s Sonora desert have all awakened in me a sense of awe. On the other hand, hiking trails in Arizona and Tennessee mountains or running on German forest trails confronted me with vibrant green foliage punctuated by brightly blooming flowers. A deer pausing as it attempted to avoid my notice or a squirrel scurrying up a tree reinforced my wonder at God’s creative power. I understand, however, all too well the point that some rabbis suggested when they said that God had trouble getting Moses’ attention because he was too focused on the sheep. I wonder how many of us have the same focus on everyday responsibilities that distract us from a burning bush equivalent, a sight or experience that would envelop us in awareness of God’s otherness and nearness if they would only pause to notice. I have been distracted in that way. Besides my running, my reading has also reminded me that God’s glory surrounds me. One story that has helped me to regain my bearings is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Each year I search for a new film version of it in hope of a fresh reminder of proper priorities. Occasionally, I encounter people who I expect to appreciate God’s wonder because of their experiences, but who seem to have a spiritual twin of tone deafness. It takes me aback, and usually jolts free a memory of my own obtuseness in the presence of wonder. I have had trouble lifting my eyes to see the beauty around me after several jarring events in my life. I’m thankful for the times I have opened my eyes to behold the wonder. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Pause and marvel at the wonders God has created.