Reflections from Sunday, May 28/17
WHEN IN DOUBT … PRAY
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
While it may seem a long time ago since our first Alleluias, and all the joy and excitement, not to mention celebration chocolate, of Easter Sunday, in Church time, today is the last Sunday of Easter. Because the event of Easter is so important and central to everything that we are and everything that we believe, giving Easter a good run is very important. In the first reading from Acts we hear how on Jesus’ final day on earth, the disciples, his friends, those whom he had loved and cared for, taught and guided, they all had gathered hoping against hope that now would be the time that he would display his power, setting them all free from the oppression of Rome, restoring the kingdom of Israel. But while there would be the giving and receiving of power in just a few days, it was not quite what they had anticipated. Instead, he made them a promise of power. Now the disciples that morning as they gathered to see Jesus this final time, these disciples had visions of having power in a traditional kind of sense, that is power over those around them, power to make changes, power to rise to the top for a change, to get ahead of the curve, to be the ones in charge. We all understand that definition of power. But the power that Jesus promises them (and us by extension), is a different kind of power. For they were promised power to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem (their home town), Judea and Samaria (a bit further out), and even to the end of the earth, that is, to be witness of all that they had heard and learned from Jesus, everywhere. And then … Jesus was gone… lifted up with a cloud taking him out of their sight.
Can you imagine all that was going through their heads? The ache in their heart as their beloved friend and teacher disappeared from their sight, all of that mixed with this promise of power yet to come? What did it all really mean, for you see the promised power, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, would not actually be given to them for another 10 days, but they had no idea of exactly how it would all take place. All they had at that point of time was the promise.
If there is anything that these disciples had learned from spending three years with Jesus it was that when in doubt, pray. They had watched Jesus punctuate his entire life and ministry with prayer, all kinds of prayers – times of quiet prayer in solitude, times for teaching prayer … ‘Our Father’…, times of public prayer as he called on God’s healing for someone in need, times of thankful prayer for the gifts of food and friends and God’s faithfulness, times of prayer in the press of the garden before his arrest, and even in his final moments on the cross, engulfed by the pain and loneliness of the moment, he cries out to his Father … prayer … and so here are these disciples, with an ache and a promise … being asked to wait … and so having learned well from their teacher … what better way to wait than to pray, if, as we were reminded in the Primate’s prayer for Jerusalem this morning, prayer is a “gathering into the heart”, a “longing of the soul”, and so we are told that they devoted themselves, constantly, to prayer.
Prayer … as Anglican we are rather attached to our books of prayer, whether you like the older services or the alternative services, we lean very heavily on these books, and to be sure when we give ourselves to the prayers found within them both, we enter into times of prayer that can be very rich and full. But prayer is much more than that. And while prayer is meant to be a real essential in the life of a disciple … many of us find it difficult. Maybe we feel we don’t have enough time, enough energy, enough focus, enough skill, but at its core prayer is all about connecting and our desire to pray comes from a wish at a very basic level to connect to God.
For prayer happens when we are together to be sure, but it also happens at all those other times, those waiting times and those wondering times, those times when we are on our knees, and those times when we are in the middle of life, even in the messy and murky bits of life, in our sighs and in our tears, in our doubts and in our questions, in our rants and in our ravings, in our confusion and our outbursts, our laughter and our shouts of joy, all of these connect us to God, and so all of these are our prayers.
And while the joy and excitement of Pentecost will soon be upon the disciples today we revel in the promise of things to come in our lives, as we anticipate God’s Spirit moving and working in each one of us. Great promise, great hope, and yes, great power! So even, and maybe especially, during those times when we are called to wait, let’s give ourselves to waiting in hope. Let’s fill those times with active and constant prayer in all the moments of our lives, just like the early disciples, believing that as God works in and through us, there will be power provided to do and be and believe, all that is possible for us in Christ Jesus, more than we can ask or imagine, today and in the days and weeks ahead.