It is small wonder that we hesitate to pray about some things. Our culture has wired us to believe that we can dictate the results as we pray our prayers. On days when we do not know if we will face a speed bump or a derailment, we are tempted to retreat from prayer for fear that we might somehow initiate the wrong outcomes. Then, we find ourselves alone at the very time we most need God’s presence. But take heart! Paul reminds us that the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will.
In my family, everyone around the table recited Bible verses for table prayers. My grandmother often smiled as she remembered a three-year-old who sat at such a table. He was too young for long memory verses but old enough to know that we were thanking God for daily food. One day, when his turn came, he refused the verses usually reserved for small children like “Jesus wept” or “God is love” in favor of something much more ambitious. He had heard his older brother say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” so he clasped his hands, closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and shouted, “Sheppity, sheppity, SHALL NOT WANT!” Surprisingly, no one in the family laughed or rushed to correct him.
Perhaps it is okay that we do not always know how to pray. As self-sufficient as humankind thinks itself, we more closely resemble the three-year-old. We see through a glass darkly and find ourselves on a journey that often makes no sense to the finite mind. Only the One who sits on the circle of the earth and views the end and the beginning at the same time knows if we are truly on course, and, thankfully, that One is also praying.
Lord, in your mercy . . . pray for us. Amen.
This week’s readings remind us of the powerful role of God’s Spirit. For many Christians, the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity we understand the least. In the book of Acts, the Spirit empowers the apostles on Pentecost to speak in other languages and, in so doing, initiates the establishment and missional reach of the church to the wider world. The psalmist uses a wordplay on ruach, the Hebrew word for breath or spirit, to teach us that God’s Spirit was present at Creation and is necessary for the ongoing survival of all life. Paul writes that God’s Spirit confirms that we are children of God and can approach God with confidence, not fear. Even the disciples feel uncertain about what will happen when Jesus leaves, so John provides Jesus’ assurance that God will remain with them and with us through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
• Read Acts 2:1-21. How often do you take solace in praying in private without moving to take action in the public square? Which site is the more comfortable for you?
• Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. Where have you seen evidence of nature’s resources being spent? How can you help?
• Read Romans 8:22-27. How consequential is it to you to acknowledge that God prays for us and the world? Why?
• Read John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15. What instructions do you wish Jesus had left for you?
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