Lament, longing, hope, and praise find voice together in Psalm 85. We all know these deep questions of the soul: Why is the world against us? How much longer must we suffer? Does everybody, even God hate me? In times of trouble, we cry out to God: Restore us, and make us whole again! Give us new life and new hope! Show us your love! But the psalmist reminds us to take a pause in our lament and longing to listen for God. In the pause, we listen and hear the words of hope we most need: Peace be with you. Salvation is yours.
As we hear this new word of hope, a dance begins. Love and faithfulness meet. Peace and righteousness embrace with a kiss. Truth springs forth and begins to dance upon the earth, seeding our world with a new creation of hope. Many of you will now that I like the idea of dance to describe how things work in the Trinity and how we are part of that.
So we can say, righteousness gazes down from the sky, fertilizing creation with new possibilities for justice and mercy. Into this dance, we enter when we turn from our longing and listen for God’s call. Into this dance, we enter when we embrace peace and love. Into this dance, we enter when we live faithfulness and righteousness. Into this dance, we enter when we claim our call and live as disciples of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Lover of our Souls.
Also, take verses about prayer out of context, and God starts to look like a treasure chest filled with health and wealth for our enjoyment, if only we can determine the padlock’s combination. Or God becomes a lavish parent who will never deny our requests, assuming we can produce enough faith or the proper kind of faith. These miss the point. Jesus encourages people to pray with an attitude of persistence and with an eye on God’s commitment to human flourishing.
Jesus does not consider prayer a formula that depends on our getting the words exactly right; nor is prayer, no matter how relentless, meant to prove our faith’s genuineness. In Luke 11, Jesus highlights God’s character and God’s concern for those who pray. A friend might be cajoled to respond to an urgent but inconvenient request at midnight. But what if God is eager to help at any time? A parent doesn’t put children in danger when they ask for support. What if God is even more determined to foster our well-being?
In the tradition of scripture, prayer is as much about contending with God as it is about bringing requests humbly before God. In prayer, we ask God to keep promises— promises God has already made to accomplish mercy, restoration, and justice. Jesus doesn’t claim that God will grant us everything we demand; his teachings flow from what is found in the scripture we call the Lord’s prayer.
We pray that the world will hallow or honour God’s name, and we pray to express our yearning for the full blossoming of God’s “kingdom.” Prayer implores God to bring God’s wishes and intentions to completion and to have the whole world recognise God’s majesty and goodness. God’s demonstrated willingness to “give the Holy Spirit” to us offers additional evidence of God’s commitment to bring those things to pass.