The daily reading on Saturday told the story of Jesus calming the storm, rebuking wind and raging waves (Luke 8:22-25). As I read this passage, and thought and prayed about the impact of the hurricane on Haiti and Cuba and other hard-hit places, I wondered how the story would be heard there.
Monday morning greetings from North Carolina where we watched Hurricane Matthew creep its way up the coast over the past week. As we charted the progress, prayers have ascended. I’m grateful for friends who have held us and our community in prayer and inquired about our well-being.
We personally were spared what could have been a big mess, or worse. Some cleaning up to do for sure. But we are grateful. I’ve noted on social media, as the storm passed town after town, that many people mentioned that they had been praying for all those in harm’s way all along the eastern seaboard, and joined in expressing gratitude that the storm wasn’t worse for them.
It points to the mystery of prayer, for a number of folks who lost their lives in coastal states did not have prayers for them answered. Many lost possessions in the devastating wind and waves and rain and floods. To the number of those in this country are added hundreds, perhaps into the thousands, of brothers and sisters in Haiti and other Caribbean islands, who lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands who lost homes and all they owned. Prayers answered? Prayers not heard?
Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus was always going off to pray, yet even his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was not answered the way he would have liked. St. Paul advised early Christians to pray without ceasing, but he himself prayed repeatedly for a thorn in the flesh to be removed. It wasn’t. We all know people who have been the focus of prayers for cure who have succumbed to illness, maybe experience a kind of healing, but not cured.
So what can we say about prayer? One thing for starters: it’s probably better to spend more time listening in prayer than talking. In that quiet space, leaving room for God to speak, it is possible to align one’s own will with the will of God.
And if we then feel a need to move into words, consider the simple prayer offered by Annie Lamott who said you only need three words to pray: Thanks. Help. Wow.
Or draw, as millions have, on the power of the Serenity Prayer, which recognizes the mystery that our lives are marked by things we can shape (co-create) and things beyond our control (a hurricane.)
Or use the other prayer below which comes from the Healing Service in the Prayer Book. It recognizes the variety of conditions we face on any given day. In a beautiful turn of phrase, it invites us to handle them gallantly.
And don’t stop praying for the people of Haiti and all those whose lives were most harshly affected by the storm, nearby and far away. Recent appalling news from the presidential campaign bumped publicity about the conditions in the Caribbean. We need to hold these folks in our hearts. We can pray, not only with our lips, but with our lives for some of the poorest communities on the globe. (May I suggest the Episcopal Relief and Development Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund? www.episcopalrelief.org)
May we never stop asking that Jesus will calm the storm, whatever that storm may be in our lives or in the lives of others, literal or figurative tempests. Maybe we can even be used by Jesus in that calming, healing process.
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