Last Sunday evening, as I was preparing to leave town, I dropped some books off at St. John Lutheran Church. While there I ran into Dorothy Jacobson. Dorothy is the sister of John Glaser. Both Dorothy and John are friends from my days as pastor of St. John. John was injured in a serious accident on Saturday night, suffering burns over large parts of his body. When Dorothy and I spoke on Sunday, John was already at Harborview Hospital in Seattle in the burn unit. I asked Dorothy about John. Her update was about what I had previously heard, but then she replied, “I’d like to do more, but he’s in Seattle and we’re here in Alaska.”
I understand Dorothy’s expression of wanting to do something for John, and her frustration of not being able to help as she would like. Actually, I share her feelings. I was not only John’s pastor for about 25 years, but I consider him a good friend. Yet, as former pastor, there is a way in which I want to be sensitive about my new role and not get in the way of current Intentional Interim Pastor, Craig Schultz.
But, John is not the only person whose health concerns me. There are friends at St. John struggling with cancer. A young man whose family became friends with our family is recovering from kidney surgery he underwent in September. One of the elderly members of St. John had a stroke last month. And then, my brother David in Orlando has had serious health issues for about a year now. And there are more . . . many more!
Dorothy was frustrated by the distance between Palmer and Seattle. I am now in Gainesville, Florida. So, for all of these people who concern me there is distance between us also, like the distance between Dorothy and John. When I visited with folks who were ill or injured to pray with them, I trust that those visits brought God’s comfort. I understand Dorothy’s frustration of not being able to help as she would like to help. I would like to be doing more too.
However, in times of care and concern for others we are not powerless. God tells us to come to Him. “Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you will glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15) Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, constantly encouraged God’s children to know that God is their Father, and to approach Him as their beloved Father, trusting Him for mercy.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
But, have you ever heard someone who is faced with one of life’s challenges sigh and say with resignation, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray.”? Prayer is not a last ditch hope. We are created children of the Lord and the Maker of the universe. As Jesus said in Matthew, that Lord is our loving Father. I am convinced that God wants us to come to Him in prayer. I am convinced that God always hears and always answers our prayers.
There are times when I don’t understand God’s answer, but I always trust His love and mercy and wisdom. That is because even more than I trust the prayer which I utter from my own lips, I trust the Lord of the universe who answers our prayers. Maybe I can re-state that thought in another way. I have often seen a slogan which declares, “Prayer changes things.” I would change that slogan to read, “GOD answers prayer.”
As people who are God’s children, not only because He created us, but also because He redeemed us in the life and the death and the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, we have even more reason to trust God. Jesus tells us to pray in HIS name and our Father will answer. (John 16;23) God inspired Paul to expound on that thought. “31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) God gave His Son to save us from our sin. He will be with us through the trials of this life as well.
I do understand Dorothy’s desire to help her brother, John, and her frustration at not being able to do more. There are many I want to care for as well, including John, and Megan, and James, and Carol, and Judy, and David, and . . . Guess what? These people are all on my prayer list which is in my devotional Bible. As I write this devotion, I prayed for them this morning. And, I trust that the Lord who sent His own Son to die for us will act with mercy and power in their lives, (In fact, if you want me to pray for you, let me know what to pray about, and I will write your name on my prayer list as well. In fact, you might already be there!)
But God’s promise is for all His children, not just me. “11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” How can you help those you love? PRAY!