“May you live in interesting times” is said to be an ancient Chinese curse that many of us can identify with now. We have entered one of those periods of cultural upheaval where nothing is left untouched, where nothing is left sacred. Interesting times indeed. How are we to navigate these interesting times? What can we do to survive and even to thrive during these interesting times?
St. Paul, writing at a time of persecution in the growing church, councils Timothy to pray and intercede for “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The early church was in agreement as to whom they needed to fear and whom they needed to pray for. It’s not as easy today, for we, both as a nation and a denomination, are divided and at odds with workmates, neighbors next door (and sometimes even in our pews), and sadly, sometime within families. To survive, we must once again become a people of prayer.
In these interesting and distressing times, I would like to suggest that we at Memorial United Methodist Church initiate a weekly prayer service where we intercede for each other and those we love, as well as for our President, other elected official leaders, and for the Bishops and leaders of our own denomination. I know that within our congregations we have a variety of opinions about where our country is heading. My suggestion is that we pray for God’s Spirit to fall heavily upon our elected leaders, that we keep our personal politics out of the prayers and just ask God to allow His will be done in this country, around the world, and in our own homes and neighborhoods.
The temptation, at times, is to pray out of a sense of anger, or of indignation, or frustration, or fear. I suggest that we first ask God to fill us afresh with the Holy Spirit, allowing God’s peace to flow through us as we bring these weighty problems to His throne. Once we have found that peace, we then lift up our leaders to God.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I am convinced of the efficacy of prayer, of the power that can be unleashed in Washington, in our State Capitals, in our Episcopacy, and in our own lives. I know, at times, that we all become frustrated when we pray for something and the opposite happens, or we pray and nothing happens.
I have, over the years, been encouraged by that great prayer warrior of another generation, George Muller. Muller wrote in his autobiography “It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer; and further we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us, and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing.”
So, in these very interesting times let us commit that we will pray for our leaders, for our nation, and pray for our United Methodist Church, that God’s will is made manifest. We are living in challenging times, but these are the times that define our faith. Through our faith in a prayer hearing God we can turn this curse into a great blessing. Pray on, Christians, pray on!