I gape at the headlines, and I am speechless. I stare, open-mouthed and damp-eyed, and the weight of my own helplessness crushes my lungs. Powerlessness chokes.
I‘ll be honest with you, I cannot watch. My eyes scan the text, fast and fearful, but I can’t read. I will not look long and lingering at the photos. I can’t. I just…can’t. I am helpless, powerless, small and weak, and there is nothing to be done. There is nothing I can do but stare and glance away when the looking hurts too much. Look away and ask aloud, “How did evil gain such power?”
It takes a moment for the nausea to subside. Another beat for my mother’s heart to remember I am here, and they–my sweet, precious children–are safe. They are not on a mountainside. They are not at gunpoint. They are not martyrs this day. In the third, quiet moment, I give thanks.
And that’s when I recall not who I am but whose.
I may be helpless, powerless, small and weak, but God is not. In my helpless, powerless, tiny, timid weakness He will show just how much. How strong He is, how much He loves, how deep his mercy. And how devastating his justice.
I stop and wait for the lightning strike…but it does not come.
I do not pretend to the know the mysteries of God, but I trust his heart is breaking. I trust (naively? courageously?) that He is listening.
Are we? Am I?
To the headlines. To the gruesome, gritty photographs, yes. To the tweets and texts and status updates, but am I truly listening? Do I hear Him, the still, small voice that whispers from the Word, “This, then, is how you should pray…”
Hallowed be. Kingdom come. Thy will. On earth.
I pray these words with open palms and broken tears while innocence is raped a planet’s width away. I trust on behalf of the murdered, and I claim them–Christian, Yazidi, African, faceless, nameless, human–as my sisters, my brothers. My children.
How did you do it, Lord? How did you watch your son’s side pierced, his hands nailed down? How did you watch him hang and suffocate to death–and for what?
Forgive me, Lord.
We cannot calm the storm anymore than we can set the stars in motion, and yet, Jesus asks us to pray. Mystery of mysteries. To give us this commission. In the Garden on that night of soul-crushing betrayal, He said it: “Watch and pray.” But they could not do it. While Jesus knelt alone, weeping blood on hallowed ground, they slept for the flesh is weak.
My flesh is weak, and the way is barred. I cannot climb into a jet today, drop water from a sky into mouths begging for drink. I cannot deliver food to starving stomachs, clothing to the shivering. These strangers who are the siblings of my heart, I cannot invite them in. They are suffering the most terrible passion imaginable, and I can offer them no care.
But this one thing I can do.
I pray hallowed. I pray, “Kingdom come!” On earth. Now. As in Heaven.
I pray give. I pray, “Forgive!”
I pray lead us, Lord. Deliver us from evil.
I pray, and I am watching, waiting for the lightning strike. But remember, soul. Remember war quells nothing. It is only a stirring up and, true, a natural response in the face of evil. Yet after so many blood-soaked millennia, the scars remain. War never wins. And no war is ever won, not truly. Truce is but a breather: a boxer, head hung, fist pumped, waiting for the next round. No.
I am small. I do not know the answers. I judge neither the method nor the means, though I question constantly. I make no condemnation, no more recommendation than this: Christ. I know only that it is prayer, this prayer–this You which resurrects my hope. You are the only hope. Not jets or guns, not food or water. You are peace, and it is You who will bring peace. And yet, you tell us simply, “Watch and pray.”
Watch and pray. Go and make.
And with those final words, you left us. For reasons unknown, you left us, and you did it with these words. These two-part instructions. Watch and pray. Go and make. You left us…and you left us no Plan B.
Are we listening? Are we watching, praying; going, making?
I confess shame-faced: it’s easier to wallow in weakness. Easier to feel informed enough to be cynical than to do the hard night-watch of prayer. Easier than the go and make of the mission field. Easier, even, than the near-at-home forgive. But in this, this two-step obedience–right here is all our hope.
Deliver us. Deliver them.
Never let us forget your strength. Let us never despair nor drift to sleep. Help us to keep watch, because today it is them, but tomorrow it could be my daughter’s head on the execution block. You would still be strong, and yet…
I pray they’d be watching. I hope someone would be praying for me.