”When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”—Mark 13:7-8
To get the whole picture of what Jesus was saying to his disciples, one really needs to read this whole chapter of Mark. Jesus was telling them, in answer to their question, what would happen before the coming of the Son of Man in glory. He tells them to stay awake because they won’t know when the end will be, but these are signs of beginning labor pains. They aren’t pretty and they also sound very familiar.
It is an honor and a blessing to be able to pray—to be asked to pray. Our prayer lists are often long. This week alone we have had prayer requests for fighting in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, etc., refugees at our border, refugees in Iraq, refugees everywhere—persecution of Christians in these and other countries, abuse of women and girls, for Canon White in Baghdad, murder, violence in the world, violence in our country and perhaps in our neighborhood or the house next door.
Then, even though we may have not been asked to pray for them, there are concerns of our hearts – the Ebola outbreak, flash floods, forest fires, earthquakes and hurricanes, prayer lists for our families, our neighbors, our friends, our parish, our Daughters, our church leaders, and our pastors. This week I’ve had a critical emergency in my mother’s health, my husband’s health is on my heart, too, safe travel for our son and wife, and an occasional, “Help” sent up on my own behalf. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some because there are many. I have been asked to pray with someone over the phone and even on Facebook. The needs become overwhelming to the one praying and the one in need of prayer. So, how do we keep up? Matthew 7:8 says, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” So why do we pray? Because we need to take our concerns to God. He wants us to ask. Jesus took his needs and concerns to his Father and his were overwhelming, too. (See Garden of Gethsemane).
I have begun to take these burdens of my heart into my Centering Prayer. I have prayerfully read the lists on my computer and I bring them into the silence. Recently, this prayer and image has come: “The news is horrifying Lord. The only word I have is, ‘Help.’ The needs are many and my candle flickers in the darkness; my heart is very heavy. How shall I pray? I am overwhelmed. I sit in the silence, Holy One, with your world in my hands and in my heart. I lift it to your hands to take from me, but you don’t. Instead, you put your hands on mine and say, ‘We will hold it, together, with the rest of those who pray.’” And so, in silence, we do. Yes, it is an honor and a blessing to be able to pray and to be asked to pray. God uses our prayers to do his work even when we don’t see the outcome. Our charge is to stay awake, notice, and pray and then, in some way while we wait, Jesus comes.
For the peace of the whole planet and those who inhabit it, we pray: Lord have mercy.