If you are new to Morning Reflections, here is my routine: I generally get up and even before the first cup of coffee, I read through all the lectionary bible lessons for the day. Then I enter into about 20 minutes of contemplative prayer. In the course of that, it often becomes clear to me – usually through a word or phrase – what God is wanting to tell me that morning. I rise from that silence and begin to write. (OK, let’s admit…this is the point I go get a cup of coffee.)
Today I have found that routine disrupted today. Not the coffee of course! But being perplexed by the story in Mark made prayer time, well let’s say, strange. No centeredness today.
Jesus heals the boy who cannot speak or hear. Before he heals him he complains to the crowd: “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?” The disciples had tried to heal the boy, but were unsuccessful. Afterward, in private, they ask him about this: “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”
What is Jesus saying? Is Jesus on “empty”?
It took me 15 minutes of contemplative prayer to center myself and move past this conundrum. Sometimes it is easy to get entranced by the story, and forget the main character – God. My first 15 minutes of prayer time were story-centered, not God-centered, just as the disciples were not prayerfully God-centered.
So often we try so hard. The disciples certainly were trying hard, and were unsuccessful. So too, until I was ready to rest in God, did the answer come.
Our goal isn’t to “figure it out” but to live in faith and hope. That is easier said than done.
During my many years as a hospital chaplain, I would regularly encounter ministers who were completely untrained in how to deal with crisis, and in their own discomfort they would say the stupidest things, sometimes tormenting congregants with awful theology because they were anxiety-filled but felt the need to say something. The worst of which was: “If you just would pray hard enough, your son would get better.” It would make me wanna smack these ministers. What a terrible thing to say in crisis!
This healing story is coming out of a tradition where this is how sickness was understood. And Jesus was responding to something deeper – he was focused on selfishness versus Godly prayer.
Our goal was never to figure it out, but to live into hope.