Persistent widow prayers
by Chris Burton
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:13-20)
In 2015, as I rode the G train, I would listen to “Pray For Me” by Kirk Franklin. The message of the song resonated with me. I was a new father, living in a new apartment, and starting a new job. I needed all the prayer I could get.
I loved how the song opened with vulnerability on Kirk’s part. His voice made me think of a wounded healer, someone who has been beaten down but remains hopeful.
Those feelings have been fixed for me in this season. Walking with a limp but trying to lead, be an example, be loving.
I’ve found myself despondent at times. Too often, reminding myself that I am not sick. Even though I am at risk, I am well.
Reminding myself of this, encouraging myself really, has become a ritual. Deepening my praise by showing gratitude for daily bread in the midst of global crisis.
I am grateful for the privilege of sojourning through quarantine with family. I am grateful for my job, my students, friends, extended family, and a community that still gathers–electronically–to worship.
I feel blessed in the midst of this storm. It’s a familiar place. So many days in the hospital, through both severe flares, were filled with laughter in spite of the physical pain and dire circumstance. But I know everyone is not there. I know many people are too smothered by despair to find anything to smile about.
I’ve been sitting on this writing since Holy Week. Since Lupus, I’ve been drawn to the solemn holidays that force you to consider mortality. Ash Wednesday and its reminder of how dusty we are. Good Friday.
I wanted to share this on Good Friday because Jesus’ cry of “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” felt more appropriate than ever. These words really ring in the hollowness of isolation. Jesus quotes the psalmist in psalm 22 and opens the door for all who feel rejected and alone. I believe that New York is the worst place in the world for loneliness. Perhaps one could render loneliness into solitude if they were, say, a rancher in Wyoming. But to be in a place so dense with population and to feel alone, is a uniquely cruel torment.
It’s a call for us to innovate our love. Who is our neighbor and how can we be neighborly while socially distant?
To love from a distance has become a critical form of hospitality in this time. We have to smile from a screen or behind a mask. This is difficult but I pray that you find new mercies everyday. I hope you discover new ways to love your neighbor. A radical love that pierces distances and binds us together. Let’s pray for one another. Let’s pray for people we don’t even like. Let’s confess our inadequacies. Confess our need.
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.