Esther C:12, 14-16,
Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 7-8
“All…too, cried out with all their strength, for death was staring them in the face.” (Esther C: 11)
This passage, which precedes today’s reading from Esther rings true for the contemporary world community as events continue to unfold. War is at the doorsteps of Iraq. Conflict continues in Israel. War is ongoing in Afghanistan. The Philippines are in unrest. South Korea is fearful of what North Korea may be planning.
It is not difficult to identify with the anguish of Esther and her people as they pray for deliverance from the possible annihilation of the Israelites. Our world’s conflicts are focused on the political and ideological; the people of the world are praying to their God for deliverance, for peace, for victory, for God’s presence. As prayers are offered, they resonate with the psalmist’s confidence that God is present in the midst of difficulty: “O God, you answered me when I called for help.”
However, are our prayers of confidence in God’s presence aligned with our politics - God will help us because WE are right? Do we not hear the same prayers of confidence for God’s help by those from opposing ideologies? How is God to be present to all – in the midst of conflicting ‘hoped for’ outcomes?
Jesus promises, “Ask and keep asking, and you will receive. Seek and keep seeking, and you will find. Knock and keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Does this mean that if we are persistent, God will answer OUR prayers rather than the prayers of those who disagree with us? Do we ask, as Esther did, that our enemies would perish in our stead? It seems to me that such a tone of prayer is asking God to decide who is right and who is wrong. If we persist in our prayers to convince God (and ourselves?) that we are on the side of good does that mean that those whom we oppose are on the side of evil?
As I continue to reflect on Jesus words, “Ask and keep asking…seek and keep seeking…” I realize that God is truly present in the process of praying. We are bringing ourselves to God, to be in relationship with God…asking for God’s presence in the midst of our struggles…not that God will OK our answers (the ‘right’ answers?), as much as we are opening to what God is asking of us…seeking for us. And what might that be?
The last line of today’s passage from Matthew may show us the way: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” I don’t think that Jesus is suggesting that we should do to others what we think they are doing to us. Rather, we are encouraged to treat others in the manner in which we would like to be treated.
This brings me to a very different type of prayer…one, which definitely
petitions God for safety and for peace. But a prayer that is for
safety and for peace not only for us, but for the entire world community.
As I ask, and keep asking…seek and keep seeking… I am being called to enter
into an ongoing dialogue with my God…asking/seeking for God’s presence
to be made real in my life…in our lives. Will my/our prayer
lead us to realize/make real God’s presence of peace, of safety, and of
recognition that we are all God’s people? And if we are all God’s
children, what and where will our prayer lead us to be and do? Will
it be to continue the ongoing conflicts/wars or might it be to ask – to
seek with one another, God’s way and presence in our world?
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