“Moses spoke to the entire assembly of the people of Israel: ‘Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of [Yahweh]. Oh, praise the greatness of our Lord! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.
“They have acted corruptly toward him; to their shame they are no longer his children, but a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the Lord [Yahweh], O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” (Deuteronomy 32:1-6, NIV).
May 2 is the United States’ annual Day of Prayer. We trust our non-US readers will join us here in the States on May 2, sending a synchronic voice to Elohim, our God.
This Reflection began with Moses’ call to Israel during the exodus through the desert. The “wilderness pilgrimage” is well known to God's people of all ages. When suffering is joined to the passion (suffering) of Christ, sanctification emerges, in which lives joy. It is necessary. “God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him…Strive to live holy lives, because if you don't, you will not see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:10b, 14b, GW).
Moses’ opening is striking in prayerful imagery…Words falling like rain, descending like dew…showers on new grass…abundant rain on tender plants. He doesn't cry out to the people of Israel; instead Moses calls the heavens and earth to listen. As a people of many nations, forgetting our nationalities, we must call upon our Creator of the heavens and earth with one voice.
As taught by the Scriptures, we call first in thanksgiving. Our thanks are not restricted to what we normally deem to fall into the “good” category. In her book, Lent, The Sunday Readings (Orbis Books, 1997), Megan McKenna records a prayer scratched into a wall in a concentration camp: “Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will but all those of ill will. Do not only remember all the suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage and generosity, the greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they come to judgment, let all these fruits we have borne be their reward and their forgiveness.”
This is a prayer of peace and love, reflecting a deep understanding of the peace and heart of Christ. If people of all nations prayed in this manner, we would not need to pray for peace, for we would already be praying in peace.
Forgiveness is a powerful mandate in the model prayer Jesus taught us. The second paragraph of Moses’ call to the heavens and earth is a strong rebuke to the nation of Israel. The response can only be repentance. Forgiveness and repentance are married. To what nation on earth does Moses’ admonishment not apply prayers of thanks for both the lush forests and barren deserts in our lives, the national prayers of all countries must enter that liberating realm of repentance and forgiveness. If they don't, our words will not shower upon the tender plants and nurture the green grass. They will only be blown away and dissipated by the wind like a snuffed out candlewick.
On May 2, God's people in all nations would do well to pray Psalm 38 and 51 with one voice. Jesus prayed, “I'm not praying only for them [his first disciples]. I'm also praying for those who will believe in me through their message. I pray that all of these people continue to have unity in the way that you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they may be united with us so that the world will believe that you have sent me…In this way the world knows that you have sent me and that you have loved them in the same way you have loved me” (John 17:20-21, 23b, GW). While we often think in terms of praying for one another, let us corporately pray with each other.
When we pray with those in poverty, in bondage, in despair, in pain, in persecution, we approach closer to the solidarity that the apostle Paul teaches…to pray and feel as though we are in bonds with those in bondage, sick with those who are sick, persecuted with those who are persecuted. This way we experience and fulfill the unity of heart, will and spirit, for which Jesus prayed, “in the way that you, Father, are in me and I am in you.” Why would the bombing of a school bus of children in a nearby city outrage and grieve us more than that of one in Columbia or El Salvador? Closer to home, we say. In God's kingdom, in the heart of Christ, we in Him and He in us, everyone is as close to home as everyone else. There is no distance in the unity for which Jesus prayed.
As we pray in concert, with each other in unity, let us be awed that we “have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. [We] have come to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together and to the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. [We] have come to God, the judge of all people and to the spirits of people who have God's approval and have gained eternal life. [We] have come to Jesus, who brings the new covenant from God, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel's” (Hebrews 12:22-24, GW).
Given all that resplendent grace, we are assured that our unity and presence to one another in spirit and prayer is palpable and powerful. But only if we really believe that.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © April 27, 2002
"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotations are used by permission.
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