Side by Side

I hope you are enjoying the series this Lent as we explore aspects of prayer. On Sunday, March 19th we will look at types of prayer, places we pray and certain expectations that we may impose on our prayers. I have a friend who prays frequently. I don’t know if she has a specific place or time she goes to pray. I know she uses different devotional materials because from time to time she will share one with me. I also know she prays for the people she works with because on occasions she will ask me to pray for someone. We might say a short prayer together right then. She is very good at her job and highly respected among her clients and peers. I think her prayer life helps her to be as compassionate and caring as she is and good at what she does. She works side by side with God. The Hebrew scripture reading from Exodus 17 appointed for March 19th is about the people of God quarreling with Moses because they are not getting what they want. The Gospel reading from John 4 is about Jesus visiting with the Samaritan woman and inviting her to let go of some of her expectations and receive what God has to offer.

March 26 is the 4th in our prayer series. The disciples want to know why a man was blind from birth. Surely there must be a reason. Don’t you imagine his parents prayed frequently for him to be a normal, healthy child? Jesus says that he was born blind that God’s work might be revealed in him. Isn’t that true of all of us? Weren’t we all born so that God’s glory might be revealed in us? It was easy for the community to see the man or his family outside the favor of God and keep them on the margins of the faithful. Besides, he probably made them uncomfortable. For Jesus, the blind man was just as complete and whole as any other. He was loved no less by God. Yet when Jesus restored the man’s sight, the faith community still had trouble accepting him and seeing his worth. I think sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is that we are loved as we are. Or maybe it is that those people who make us uncomfortable are loved too.

The last Sunday in our sermon series, April 2nd, looks at prayer from three of Jesus’ closet friends. These were not his disciples or people he lived or worked with. Mary, Martha, and I am sure Lazarus, have prayed that Lazarus be healed. We don’t know what is wrong with him but we can assume they prayed before they sent someone to get Jesus for them. I suspect they may even have relaxed a bit when they heard Jesus had gotten their message. What does Jesus do? Nothing. He stayed where he was an additional two days. God does not always answer prayers the way or when we think they should be answered. When Jesus does finally come, he weeps. The people in the story assume he is weeping because he has lost his friend. So do many people I know when we discuss this story. It is found in John 11. Why would Jesus weep for the loss of Lazarus? He could have prevented it. He also knows that he can bring him back. Why weep? I have to wonder if when Jesus saw his friends, disciples and some who I imagine had heard his sermons, questioning God’s love and compassion for everyone, if that was what greatly disturbed Jesus in verse 33. Heartfelt prayer and worship changes the lives of those who pray. It allows us to work side by side with God.

See you Sunday,