Today’s scriptures are incredibly powerful stories. They speak of death and trust. In Samuel, the sordid story of Absalom comes to an end. Absalom is the epitome of the bad son. Vain, devious, rebellious and attempting to murder his father in order to become king. When news of Absalom’s death comes to David, instead of rejoicing, David weeps and cries out in despair, “My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you.” The psalmist pleads, “Incline your ear, O Lord; answer me and save your servant who trusts in you.” In the story from Mark, Jesus heals the long-suffering woman and raises the daughter of Jairus from the dead.
In this world, where death is so certain, God asks us to just have faith. This last year my dad went through chemotherapy treatments for cancer, had open heart surgery and my mom had a knee replacement. It seems like I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in hospitals. It’s a hard thing to watch your parents age. I tell my children how lucky they are to have both sets of grandparents alive. I don’t think they understand. As we get older we become more acquainted with death. We don’t like it, but we recognize that it comes for us all. Fear of death can rob us of life. In today’s readings, King David mourns the death of his son, Absalom. And Jesus tells the afflicted woman, “Your faith has saved you.” Jesus tells Jairus, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Jesus demonstrates his absolute power over death and raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Just have faith. It sounds so simple. And the power of faith is so evident. So why is it so hard to trust and obey God?
I recently watched an interview with a well-known author who flaunts his unbelief. He stated that when anyone says they will pray for him, he loses all respect for that person. The interviewer pointed out how harsh that sounded. The gentleman went on to say he holds all believers in contempt. Living as God’s people among those who do not believe is a challenge. But it can also be an opportunity. Recently, an acquaintance gave me a brochure he had created. The title of the brochure was, An Opportunity for You, A Christian, to Save My Soul. The brochure detailed this gentleman’s background of faith and then his journey into unbelief. He stated in the brochure that he had set up a web page and would let everyone know if and when he had been saved. The brochure ended with this statement: The longer I go after distributing this document without the answered prayer, the firmer will be the evidence against God and Christianity.
The tone was mocking. It hurt me and made me angry. However, I thought about Christ’s command to trust and obey. Christ also calls us to pray for those who persecute us. To have love and compassion for our enemies as well as our friends. I resolved that I would attempt to pray every day for this gentleman. I put his name where I would see it to remind me. And I was quite surprised at the power of the prayer. No, I have not seen an I am saved message yet. But I have been transformed from a feeling of hurt and anger towards this person, to one of hope and caring. I smile when I see his name. I feel like I am obeying Christ and trusting God’s will. God is not a genie in a bottle, granting all our wishes. I am not a patient person, but I recognize that things of great impact do not just happen overnight. We cannot just snap our fingers and get what we want. Nothing of value comes without some sacrifice. So, why do we pray? If we can’t change our circumstances or those around us, what’s the point of prayer? Maybe we pray to change ourselves. We pray to seek God’s will. We pray to bend our will to God’s. We pray to express our trust in God’s plan for us. My prayer today is for those discouraged in their prayer life. For those of us who have a hard time with that “trust and obey” command.
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