Praying what matters

Dr. Stephen Ray
President, Chicago Theological Seminary

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

In his book Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman reflects upon the times of Jesus and Paul, focusing on what it meant that they were Jews in a time of Roman occupation of Israel. He noted how each came to their end at the hand of the same authority, yet with starkly different regard for the value of their lives. Paul came to his death after a trial in Rome and not as just another Jew on the side of the road. Thurman recalls this to remind us that while there is an equality to death, the inequalities of life persist. In our own survival or loss we can forget the inequity of all and too easily those who have borne its weight.

This Lenten season we come having journeyed through a valley of suffering and death. Many of us have lost friends, family . . . neighbors to Covid-19. At this moment, we could easily thank God for our survival and that of those whom we love. It is in this ease that we need the Spirit to shape our hearts and our prayers with compassion for those who because of zip code, lack of access to health care, or care-less civil authority have perished; and compassion for the web of shattered lives they leave behind. Let whatever gratitude we have be guided by the Spirit, so that our prayers give honor to these lives as we give thanks to God for lives that may yet shape a new world.

Prayer: Merciful and loving God, we offer thanks for the lives of the many gone too soon. We beseech you, that the Spirit would touch our hearts so that our lives will show a gratitude that demonstrates that these lives mattered. Amen.

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