Today is September 7, 2013. Last week, Pope Francis asked Christians around the world to join together to fast and pray for God’s people in Syria…all of God’s people, no exceptions. We felt it was important for us, as thedailycake.org, to participate in this event.
Fasting and prayer are deeply held disciplines within the Christian experience, and also in other faith traditions. The practice of fasting, of self-denial is something many of us practice during Lent, and the idea is to use our physical discomfort as a tool to focus our intentions around the life and ministry of Jesus. Today, I think the idea is remind us of the discomfort and disquiet (to put it mildly) of our brothers and sisters in Syria. Going without food today will be uncomfortable. I will be hungry. But I know that there is food in my refrigerator, and power to keep that food fresh and good until tomorrow. This luxury is not lost on me. And I can do without it today. There are people in Syria who do not have a full refrigerator, or power to run it. They don’t know where their next meal might come from, or if they will be alive to eat it. That is a true fact.
Praying, the kind of praying I try to do (and most often fail at…) isn’t so much about changing God’s mind, willing my own will to be God’s, but surrendering myself and my will to God’s. I believe that there is a God who can do more than we can ask or imagine, who knows better for us than we can know for ourselves. And my prayers this day are fixed on that one thought…the will to will God’s will, if not to understand it, then to be reconciled to it, through the lens of Jesus. I think about Jesus praying in the Garden, asking for the cup to pass from his lips, knowing full well what was being asked of him, but asking anyway.
God is good, and hears us, even when we feel forsaken and alone, wracked with sobs and a lack of understanding. I have to remember that when I think about God’s people in Syria. It’s hard. The pictures I see on tv and the computer screen are abysmal. They make my stomach and my heart hurt. There are no easy answers, and even fewer good ones. But I know that there are answers, and that there must be good and right ones. Are we willing to pray for God’s will, and to be agents of it? Or are we so quick and hasty to fix things, to exhibit some kind of righteousness, no matter what the long-term damage may be? There’s a fine line between sitting and doing nothing, and waiting to know the right thing to do, next.
When Moses and the Children of Jacob were hard against the shore of the Red Sea, and Pharaoh and his army were hot on their heels, people started freaking out. There was no where to go. No where. Going back meant dying. Standing still meant dying. Going forward meant drowning. And God asked them to stand still, and promised that they would not die. God provided a way through the sea, on dry land. And whether we read that story as a metaphor, or as historical fact, I think we can all agree that God does amazing things when we’re hard up against a wall, and don’t know where to go, or what to do next. I think it’s an important story to hold close to our hearts, to hold up as a promise during this day, for our brothers and sisters in Syria.
I think about Jeremiah, trying to explain Babylon to his people. Such sorrow and such destruction, and such alienation and grief…and always the reminder that though our sorrows last through the night, somehow and some way, joy comes in the morning. I’m praying for an end to this night of destruction and death, of corruption and confinement. I’m praying and counting on joy coming in a beautiful and clear morning. And that right soon.