The labor of prayer

I have spent a lot of time this week thinking about what it means to labor in prayer. Pondering what it means to do the work of holding someone up before the throne of God. It’s a constant awareness – as I wake in the dark of night, as I scrub out the dishes, as I take my boy out to celebrate his birthday. Sometimes it is the heart and spirit groaning wordlessly when the mind cannot form words. Sometimes it is opening God’s Word searching for the truth that my friend always challenged me to see and praying that for her, for me, for all of us. Sometimes it is putting on praise music and stopping in the middle of vacuuming the floor to raise my hands and sing loud, offering my prayers of hope and faith and victory.

We say, “All I can do is pray.” Why do we dismiss the labor of prayer so easily? I tend to dismiss prayer so easily because I want to see results. I want to help in a way that shows tangibly that I was there and I accomplished something. And maybe sometimes I dismiss prayer because I am selfish and prideful and doing something tangible makes me look good to other people and brings me praise.

Prayer is work. It is loving labor. It is holding up my sister when she may not be able to stand for herself. It is tirelessly storming heavens gates on behalf of my friend. It is knowing that there is an unseen battle that is raging and I have a part to play. It is knowing that yes, we bring God’s kingdom by meeting physical needs, but we also bring God’s kingdom by using our prayers to beat back the demons of despair and unbelief that threaten the heart.

Last night as evening began to fall big soft snowflakes began to fall as well. I was cozy in my home enjoying good food and relaxation with my family around me but I felt restless, guilty, weary. I felt peace falling as the world outside my window was blanketed in white. My thoughts turned again to my friend and I prayed for peace for her too. The calm and quiet of a snowy night turned my heart to pray for calm and quiet to fall in the heart of my friend. I prayed for physical, restorative rest for her body. As I prayed I knew that somehow somewhere my prayers were pushing back the darkness.

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Thoughts on grief and hope

Ash Wednesday Reflections

In a way my spirit welcomes the season of Lent. On Tuesday one of my dearest friends had a close brush with death. Blood clots. A stroke. Emergency surgery. My vibrant, vital friend. Beloved wife. Mother of four little ones. Words fail on days when news comes like a punch in the gut.

And now my soul cries out, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” The sin and sick and darkness in this world is too much! I know the Light has come, and will overcome the darkness, but on Tuesday it seemed to flicker and dim.

I need no reminder of death on this Ash Wednesday. I do not need to be told about the fragility of our days. I am all too brutally aware of how life can change in an instant. The hours since I received the phone call on Tuesday morning have been burdened and labored even as our life had continued with its regular routines and rhythms. All seems as dust.

Wangerin writes: Remember now that thou art dust. Death now – yes, even in the midst of a bustling life. My death, and Jesus’ death, by grace conjoined. Momento! – because this death, remembered now, yields life here after. And that is life forever. -Reliving the Passion page 23

That promise is supposed to trump the fear. And in my head it does. But can I admit something? In the dark watches of the night my heart fears. My sense of control is stripped and I shiver with the naked fear that is left.

I hear the voice of my dear friend who has so often said to me, “Sarah, what is true? Let me remind you what a God who loves you says to you!” This friend is now in a hospital fighting to regain her health and strength. But her words of faith echo.

Tonight I bow my head and confess my unbelief. I fear the dust of death. I fear most when I forget the love of a God who not only formed the planets but send His Son to rescue his beloved world from darkness. I fear when I forget to fix my eyes on Him and His truth.

Lord, show me this Lent how to grieve – the sin and sick and darkness of this world as well as the sin and sick and darkness in my heart – but not to grieve with fear, as one who has no hope. Your life, death, and resurrection give the hope that all things will be made new again. Show me how to hold both the grief and the hope and see them both illuminated by your light.