“They have no wine.” [The Gospel of John, chapter 2, verse 3]
While that may seem to be a simple statement, it’s pretty obvious that Mary expects Jesus to do something about it.
And I call that a prayer.
Sometimes, prayers are elaborate – they contain background information, stories, pleading, begging, bargaining, even threats. But the best prayers are simple statements – expressing a need, a hope, a wish, a fear. And one outcome of prayer is often that, like Moses and Dr King, we get a glimpse of the Promised Land.
Some say, “Why should we pray, when God already knows everything we need?” Jesus asked that question in the Sermon on the Mount, and then immediately answered it by teaching us the Lord’s Prayer.
There is a Native American tribe in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico called the Rarámuri. They have many traditions, and many of them involve prayers, although it might take some thought on our part to see them as such.
One of their traditions is “drumming the sun up.” The drummers gather well before dawn and stand in the deep darkness of the canyon floor. The drumming begins with on drummer alone. Soon others join in, faintly – until the canyon itself became a sound chamber. Before long, moving with the rhythm surging through them, the drummers become a single force, louder, stronger, and more intense.
As soon as the sun peeks over the canyon rim, The drummers abruptly stop. The sun is up. Their daily prayer is finished.
Prayer is a form of participation in the lives of others.
A Rarámuri elder speaking about their ritual stated that the drummers were not engaging in magic, as if the sun coming up required their drumming. They knew better than that. They were participating with gratitude in the wellbeing of what sustains their lives.
Drumming as prayer. Prayer as participation.
As many of you know, my wife received a positive COVID test result a week ago. As soon as it was confirmed that she had the illness, I began to ask for prayers for her, and just about everyone I asked responded that they were praying for her, and for me.
Praying for others strengthens the bond of compassionate awareness between us, and it may trigger other ways to help. Also, knowing that we are being prayed for, or are in the thoughts of others. does help. We are not alone. Others are connecting with us, and we with them. Prayer is a form of participation in the lives of others – in their happiness, and in their suffering. Praying for ourselves and knowing that others are praying for us can evoke helpful ideas.
Prayer is also a form of participation when other options are not immediately available, such as visiting or in-person conversations or just being present.
What good does it to pray, if we don’t get what we pray for?
God is never unwilling to help. God never refuses. But sometimes, God asks in effect, “Are you sure? Do you realize what you are asking?”
When his mother told Jesus there was no more wine, his first response was hesitation. He wasn’t sure it was time for him to do something public to reveal who and what he was. But he answered her prayer.
Prayers must never be judged by their effect, seen or unseen. It is the act of praying, the feeling behind it, the relationship with God, that is the only thing that counts. We pray because we know and love God, and we know that God loves us, not because we hope to convince God to do something that we think is best. It is the relationship with God which lies behind our prayers that matters.
That may be why Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing.” [1 Thessalonians 5:15]
Thank you for your prayers for Judy and me.
Thank you for joining in prayer here every Sunday. Thank you for praying at home, at work, on your commute, when you are alone, when you are in a group.
Thank you for making prayer a priority.
Thank you for not demanding that your prayers be answered as you think they should.
And above all, thank you for praying without ceasing.
So let us pray:
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.