Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1) At least He said that in the King James Version. I think it might be more literally translated: Jesus told them that “they” ought always to pray and not to faint. The overuse of the designations for humans as “man” or “men” is often not warranted; it is just a bad, power-grab of a habit. But I digress before I begin.
The word to me lately has been right from the King James Bible verses I memorized as a boy. I need to pray, and not faint – that is “faint” in the sense of faint-hearted, “faint” in the sense that the circumstances make me despair that transformation is possible; my heart breaks, my heart melts within me, I am not stout-hearted. Jesus might have told them: “If you come up against the impossible, my friends, pray with abandon.” I am trying to listen.
I have had such a great couple of years of spiritual experience and growth! I am very thankful. But, you know, a deeper relationship with God does not necessarily make life easier. The more I know the Lord (and so myself), the less I can overlook, avoid, or miss the reasons Jesus chose to die. I may have a greater capacity to suffer well, but I notice more reasons to suffer. I may have a greater capacity to serve, but I understand what I am up against more clearly, inside and out. Fainting becomes a clear option.
Today, the outside seems rather threatening. My friend returned from southern Sudan and reported that leaders there are preparing for war again. My president got heckled in the joint meeting of Congress last week. My governor is pushing casinos on my city. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drag on. I am very bothered by these things. But I almost don’t want to bring them up in conversation anymore, because it seems to me that people are so unaware or purposely turned away that they can’t engage.
Some days I feel surrounded by a spirit of disengagement. That’s far from everyone, of course, but so many of us seem to have found a way to survive that keeps us as safe as we can be from other people and the overwhelming facts of gigantic governments and corporations fighting for power, enormous info machines dominating communication, incomprehensible food production and medical care turning us into things we can’t imagine, and in my neighborhood, the constant threat that the thousands of guns will be used when the thin fabric of community finally tears.
We need to pray, and not faint! I keep hearing that from the Lord and I keep trying to figure out all it means to me, and to the church (one thing it means – this blog post!). My mind is drawn to the strange account of Daniel praying for the restoration of his people. An angel told him, Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. (Daniel 10:12-13)
My conviction to pray may be as strangely important as Daniel’s seems to have been. Angels may be deployed when I pray. Even though I speak my prayers into places I can’t fully imagine, I have been designated a key player. How are you working with that assignment?
Rather than giving up and letting the forces we fear drive us into a smaller and smaller boxes, we need to pray. Given how I am hearing the scripture, it makes sense that if just Circle of Hope prays for transformation, amazing things might happen. Since I know this is read all over the country — if we all pray and not faint, who knows what we might release God to do?
If the impossible is crystal clear, the logical response is prayer. Now that we know Who we serve as well as we do, would we faint?