O Gracious God, we pause to pray on this 4th Sunday of Lent, knowing that we are drawing ever closer to the dark days of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Jesus’ wilderness time takes on a whole new level of intensity in the upper room, in the Garden and at the place of the skull. We approach that suffering tentatively, wanting to follow him through that lonesome valley, daring to sing boldly, “Lord We are Able, our spirits are thine.” But when we open our mouths we hear Peter’s words instead, “Who me? No, I’m not with him.”
When life gets tough, they say “the tough get going.” But far too often we murmur and complain instead. Remind us again, O Lord, that many challenges and disappointments in life are simply beyond our control – and it has always been so. Our faith tradition was born and refined in the crucible of wilderness wandering and wondering. When we are suffering from broken relationships, grief, or loss of our sense of purpose and direction in life, we know our ancestors in the faith have all been there and done that before us.
When we fret over obstacles that we must face at school or work or home – when things aren’t going the way we thought they would – help us draw strength from Moses and the Hebrews in the wilderness and Jesus’ temptation by Satan or his night of trial in the Garden of Gethsemane. When things are bad, remind us to compare our problems in life to the generations before us who survived the Great Depression and two world wars. When faced with our own Jordan Rivers to cross, we can draw inspiration from brave souls like those who crossed the Atlantic to settle this promised land, or those who crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma to keep the torch of freedom burning, or all the anonymous saints who simply overcome the challenges of life with daily random acts of kindness to their fellow wilderness travelers.
O God, you know what is on our hearts today and every day. Hear our prayers for ourselves and others we know who are hurting. Pour the balm of Gilead on our broken lives and divided world. And as we share our needs and desires, our hopes and our fears, remind us again O God of resurrection, of all those who have gone before us to show us how faith can take our wilderness journeys and transform them into a time of spiritual renewal.
Remind us that we are never alone in the wilderness as we offer together the prayer of our risen Christ.
Northwest United Methodist Church, Columbus, Ohio, March 15, 2015