Daryl and I have been praying together quite a bit lately.
It’s not rare for us to pray with one another (we are pastors, after all), but in these days it’s had an added air of urgency. There’s a lot going on out there, friends. I get daily videos from a dear friend who’s locked into her hotel in Madrid (wearing adorable pajamas, but still, locked in her hotel). COVID-19 is exploding all over the world, including in particularly vulnerable countries with rocky infrastructure and healthcare like Haiti and Uganda. My friends who are doctors and nurses are legitimately terrified for what it will mean for them and their families when they are repeatedly exposed to this virus.
Closer to home I’m trying to hold all my Zoom meetings without visible dirty laundry in the background and begging my kids not to play tug-of-war near the fireplace because if one of them lets go too quickly and the other ends up needing stitches, we really do not want to go to the Emergency Room right now.
Jesus is all we have.
Last night when Daryl asked me how he could pray for me, I admitted I was working out muscles I didn’t know I’d need, and that they were weak and sore.
The muscle of trusting God.
The muscle of releasing worry.
The muscle of finding hope.
The muscle of saying hard things, even if it might ruffle feathers.
The muscle of shutting down the endless scroll of the Internet to rest.
The muscle of patience.
The muscle of doing the next right thing, even when the thing after that is utterly unknown and unknowable.
My soul felt like my body used to feel after the first week of high school soccer practice when I could barely bend over to tie my own cleats. Places ached that I didn’t even know existed.
It’s much easier to be patient when I can take my kids to the trampoline park to blow off steam. It’s far simpler to hope when I can gather in worship with my congregation and look into their eyes in person.
And turning off the Internet to rest? Well, that’s hard even in peaceful times. It’s near-impossible when we’re at war with a microscopic virus intent on doing our global family great harm.
I needed prayer for new muscles.
The author of Hebrews invites this type of prayer, reminding us that we can strengthen our weak places, with time and care and the help of our God. He writes:
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
It’s a reminder that we need new muscles not just for us, but for a waiting, watching, often-despairing world. For our neighbors and families and friends. We build this new strength at God’s invitation, for God’s purposes, to God’s glory.
So my prayer is one I invite you to join me in, if you’re finding you need new muscles to get you through the next few minutes, much less the next few days.
Dear God, I can’t do this on my own. I’ve built muscles for ordinary life, and we’re in extraordinary times. Ordinary faith won’t do. Ordinary courage won’t see me through.
So I ask, Jesus, that you would strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees. Hearten my trembling spirit and still my anxious thoughts. Give me the grace to choose the next right thing (even when that thing is just to turn off the news and go to bed), and the trust to come to you for daily bread.
I give you my whole self, aching muscles and all. I am yours, Lord. See me through.
We are in this together, friends. It’s never been as clear as it is today.
And Jesus is right in it with us.