Prayer for the suffering

Lord, open their eyes to see the compassion in your eyes.

The story behind this:

My mother in law passed away in November 2007. My wife and I went up for the funeral, and stayed for two weeks as she began putting her mother's house in order. On my first day back at work, I thanked my supervisor for letting me stay away for two weeks, and told him about the funeral, the grieving and the celebration. Another colleague listened to our conversation, and I was struck by the compassion in her eyes. Weird, I thought, sympathy without words actually happens. I'd thought it was a literary cliché, a cliché from the kind of books I don't like to read much. But in real life, it's actually pretty neat!

A year and a half later our son was in a bad road accident while we were traveling in California. We got the phone call from the police that he'd been airlifted to the hospital. As we booked a quick flight home and hurriedly prepared to drive to the airport, wondering just how bad things might be, I thought of my colleague's compassionate glance and wished I could sign up for another one. Then as we got on the plane, a new thought came to me. James says that all good gifts come from God the Father. So that meant that the glance of compassion I still wanted but couldn't have because my colleague wasn't nearby, really came from God. What I'd appreciated in her eyes that day was a reflection of the compassion in God's eyes, if I could see them. That was a comforting thought. And ever since, in times of sadness, I've thought about God's compassion as I saw it reflected in my colleague's eyes that day. (As it turned out, our son had broken legs and a broken finger plus a dislocated elbow, but no head injuries and no internal injuries).

Another aspect of this story came to mind a couple years later. One of the common generalizations about men and women is that men always want to fix a problem, while women want compassion. We men are supposed to learn to listen to our wives and respond to how she feels, not just suggest how to fix it. But what, I thought, do we want God to do? God, revealing himself as "he" not "she," should be a fixer right? And who could be better at fixing things? Don't we always pray for a quick fix? An instant healing, a new job right now! But what if God chooses to not fix all our problems right away, but expresses compassion with us as we endure the problem?

So I pray for those in distress, that the eyes of their hearts would be opened to see God with them in their distress.

When prayer feels unreal 2

Yesterday I remembered a time in prayer when I was honest about not feeling fervent, and God welcomed my honesty. I remembered last night a thought from Psalm 25. The first verse says (in some but not all translations) "To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul."

Yes, to the Lord, I lift up my soul. My soul as it is, not the soul I should have, not the soul I'd like to think I have or want others to think I have. But the one I really do have, with its warts and imperfections, ego, selfishness and pride. That is the soul I've got, that is the soul God has resolved to transform. He knows how much is yet to be transformed, and does not view finishing the task as impossible or even arduous.