Thursday’s Theme: Prayer
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” is from Mark 9:24. It is spoken by a father whose son is sick and comes to Jesus for healing. It is not some words of entry, not some magic words needed for a miracle to be performed. Instead, they are the most honest words this father knew to say to one who offered his family hope.
For centuries these words have been spoken. They have been whispered in the dark or shouted perhaps from the top of a long-climbed mountain. These words have come out in a gasp, or slowly and painfully been said in A. One. Six. Word. Sentence.
This prayer holds so many of my moments from 2020. So many times, in these past days into months, my prayers have felt the push and pull of this year’s faith journey. So many minutes back-to-back-to-back when I was afraid and so unsure of where I was going, of what I was supposed to be doing next.
This year will go down in the history books, that’s for sure. I wonder what they will write of us. Our finest hour? Not even close? Our moment in time when we walked in light or in darkness? Our time of building bridges toward one another? Or our time of building taller and taller walls?
As I’ve been carrying this prayer, especially in these past days it has all-in-all brought me hope. As I’ve been praying these words, I am grateful for this prayer’s starting place: `Lord, I believe.’ These are words that echo my generational faith. Somehow in these six words I know that I am both standing on the shoulders of my ancestors and at the very same time rocking my sons in my arms.
But I think that the final three words are the heart of this year’s prayer. It wasn’t that long ago we were gathered in houses of worship singing hymns. Not that long ago when we were sitting shoulder to shoulder in movie theaters, or 3 packed in a booth at a favorite restaurant. It wasn’t that long ago when we all could come and go from buildings without having our temperatures taken. Now the world is so very different. Help my unbelief. We’ve all been forced to come to a screeching halt. We’ve all needed to acclimate ourselves from what we thought life was going to be to new-shared standards and rules. Help my unbelief.
Prayer has held me throughout my life. I’ve been taught prayers by heart since I was old enough to speak. I’ve read others’ prayers silently or aloud and knew that that prayer’s writer had spoken for me. I’ve sung prayers and I’ve prayed breath-prayers when just a few words were enough. Help my unbelief is all about faith and hope and love. Mine for God, and God’s for me. These words speak to the deepest, most vulnerable place in my spirit that longs for God’s spirit.
This prayer certainly stands the test of time – and Lord knows that 2020 has surely tested it. Amen and amen.
(thanks to dear friends Amy and Ed in Charlottesville for this winter moment)
"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.