Last time, I wrote about what difference one person can make. Circumstances have reminded me that sometimes we feel powerless because some things are out of our control. I don’t know about you, but I hate being out of control. Ironically, I have often been totally unaware of that. Since I am a pretty smart and fairly competent person, I usually feel that I can do something. When I find myself in a situation where there is nothing I can do, I tend to get rather stressed out, sometimes wondering why I can’t sleep or concentrate.
I have been going through a lean time, when I must wait. That has been easier than some times in the past, but it still affects me. Then today, one of my brothers ended up in the hospital due to cranial bleeding from an aneurysm. I’m the oldest so I feel responsible for my family (my father died in 1969). I also live 200 miles away. Here or there, in the human sense, I have no power, no control, and zero ability to solve his problem.
This isn’t about the power of one human, this is about power from God. It’s commonly called prayer, and it tends to be a last resort. I have been a Christian most of my life, and I have been in ministry of some kind for over 30 years. On one level, my whole life has been about trusting God, depending on Him, and frankly on assuming He’s got things covered. I have just lived that way, and yet I don’t find praying and being comforted by prayer an easy thing. I am a very pragmatic, rational sort of person, neither emotional nor spiritual, as most people imagine it. I haven’t had dreams or visions, and He has never spoken audibly to me. Sometimes, like now, that would be nice.
Yet, I trust Him. I worry about my brother and his two sons, but I also believe that God is already watching out for them, better than I can. I ask Him to heal, protect, give wisdom to the doctors, and watch over my Mom as she faces what mothers do when their sons are at risk. I ask him to re-order my priorities because life and death issues remind us that many of our perceived problems are trivial and grossly self-indulgent.
He may die. We all will sooner or later. My mother is nearly 80. And we never know when the unexpected tragedy may occur. Someone will do a funeral; it might even be me. I have done a few family services, including two of my brothers’ weddings. I am fairly sure that they are believers, and the power of faith in the face of death is incomparable. I am glad when I can reaffirm that hope to people I care about. Of course, I will be delighted not to be doing a funeral for a long while, as far as my family and friends are concerned.
The news from around the world is frightening, and we all may feel powerless at the threat of terrorism, as well as in the face of natural disasters. I fear radical Islamists, and I fear the exponential increase of our own government’s thirst for money to spend wildly and willingness to meddle in more and more of our individual lives. I believe that each of us has an obligation to do what we can to influence the course of life and culture, here and abroad–to work hard, to care for others, to be generous and merciful, to vote, and to try to work toward what is good and decent in any way we can. I also believe we must use this great power we have that comes by prayer.
Some believe that religious faith is about controlling the behavior of others. People with bad behavior and guilty consciences tend to think that way. Real faith is about prayer, and about supernatural power, not merely about earthly government. In the history of the United States, people of faith, of prayer, and of the courage they produced created much of what has made this country so great that we have an immigration problem (unlike most places that have an emigration problem!). Yes, we believe that moral character is important, but we also believe that human compassion and liberty are important. We also believe that the power of God always trumps the power of governments. That power comes in the quiet of worship and prayer, not at the ballot box.
People, even one person, make a difference. That is true in character, compassion-driven public service; it is even more true in prayer. Prayer indeed changes things, and ultimately prayer changes us…and me.