How do we respond to the brokenness of our world? Theologian Karl Barth says, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” This past week I’ve been grieved by the evident disorder of our world. The threat of fire and fury because of provocations by North Korea remind me of the inhumane and harrowing devastation that I witnessed as a child in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by an atomic bomb. The events in Charlottesville tear off the scabs of deep wounds from a long history of racial oppression and division in our nation. How do we pray in the face of such disorder in our world?
First, we pray honestly. Prayer does not plaster bandaids of Christian slogans over bleeding wounds, but prayer honestly brings grief to Jesus. In Wheaton this Sunday and in Warrenville the previous Sunday, Steve Hands shared vulnerably and honestly his own wrestling with the difficult birth of his daughter Mary Grace. Through his honesty expressed through poetry and Scripture in prayer, he found strength and hope to move forward one difficult step at a time through his valley. Honest prayer is critical for grief, whether we are grieving the frustrating reality of ongoing illness, racial division, the possibility of nuclear war, loss of a job, or a broken relationship, or something else. Let us pray honestly over the brokenness of our world.
Also, we pray specifically. Prayer unites the resources of heaven with the brokenness of earth, so the places of our grief can catalyze our pray. And as we pray, our hearts grow to embrace God’s heart. While answers to big prayers like healing racism and saving the world are difficult to see, we more easily see answers to specific which encourages us to persevere in prayer. As I prepared for my time with our campus in Warrenville, I prayed, remembering specific faces, names and need, and my heart grew with God’s love for those needs. That is why I pray for specific family members, friends, church members and neighbors by name. Specific prayers grows our heart in specific ways,
Let us rise up against the disorder of our world by clasping our hands in prayer. When we are troubled by the disorder of Charlottesville, let us clasp our hands in prayer to God’s kingdom in that brokenness. When we are troubled by the words of our president about these events, let us pray for God-given wisdom and compassion to replace strident and divisive rhetoric (1 Tim 2:1–2). Prayer may not be the sum total of our response to these events, but prayer must be the fount and fuel of our response. Wellspring, may we be a church that prays in the resources of heaven for the brokenness of earth.