Praying the Alphabet

John 11:1-44 “Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me…”

Jesus stood at the grave of his friend, Lazarus, who had been dead four days, wrapped up tight and tucked away into the side of the hill. Everyone watched. Everyone waited. The dead man’s family, Jesus’ followers, the townspeople were all ready to offer their opinion on the matter.

Martha began by spouting religious sentiment, trying to overshadow her pain, “At least he’ll be in heaven,” she said as she lowered her eyes.

Mary became indignant, blaming Jesus for causing her sorrow, “If only you’d been here this would have never happened!”

The crowd, as always, remained doubtful, questioning Jesus and his ability. “He might be able to heal a blind man but that dead man’s staying down.”

But Jesus took a different approach. First, he was moved. Then he wept. And finally, he prayed.

Under the critical eye of all those gathered, Jesus looked to heaven.
As others shook their heads in disbelief, Jesus lifted his head in faithfulness. While their doubt still echoed in the caves, Jesus listened for the voice of God.
Jesus didn’t focus on those standing next to him. He focused on the one above him. And Lazarus came forth.

Like Mary, Martha, Jesus, and the crowd, we too, will find ourselves standing before the tomb at some point in our lives. We can’t avoid it. Life is filled with trouble and it comes in different forms.

At times it comes like a small child, padding down the hall late at night; silently climbing in our bed, sticking cold feet into the middle of our backs, preventing sleep, disturbing our rest. It can be a sweet moment. But it soon becomes distressing and we certainly don’t want it to continue for long.

At other times, trouble might greet us in a calm, deliberate manor like a doctor entering the cold sterile exam room, carrying a medical chart, a stern face, and a grim diagnosis. It’s true meaning takes a while to digest and its full impact isn’t felt until later, much later, when you are sitting alone, hugging yourself in the dark.

But most often trouble comes like a blow from a hammer on our thumb or like screeching tires just before the car slams into the ditch. It is sudden. It is unexpected. It is violent. It takes us by surprise and it hurts us. It injures us. We immediately feel its impact and our lives are never the same again.

It may come in different ways but the truth is that trouble will come. We can’t avoid it. We can’t run from it. We can’t hide from it. The only option we have is how we choose to face it.

Some will choose to see the trouble as a gift, a blessing from God, ignoring the harm it brings and the pain it causes. “The Good Lord called him home.”

Some will choose to see trouble as a sign of our own evil, a curse from above. “If I had been more faithful, this never would have happened.”

Others will find trouble as the confirmation of everything they knew to be true. “God just isn’t big enough.”

Yet, some will see the tomb and lift their heads and pray. Some will fight the battle with folded hands instead of balled fists. Some will face the trial with faith and reverance instead of fits of rage. “Father, I thank you that you heard me.”

There is a story about a little girl whose mother came to her bedroom door. She stopped and listened, as mothers are prone to do. The little girl was kneeling beside her bed, hands folded, eyes closed tight, and head bowed. And in the dim light of the room the little girl began to pray. “A, B, C,” the little girl paused. “D, E, F, G…” and on through the entire alphabet the prayer continued.

When it was done, the mother stepped into the room and tucked her daughter under the covers. “What were you doing, just then?” the mother asked, trying her best to hide her amusement.

“Saying my prayers.” came her response.

“It sounded like the alphabet.”

“It was.” The little girl looked at her mother as if she would understand. Her mother’s blank expression revealed otherwise.

Innocently, the child continued. “I have a lot of things to pray about,” she explained. “But I don’t always know what to say. So I just pray the letters and let God put them together. He knows the right words, anyway.”

Dear God,
We have to be honest. When trouble enters our lives we don’t always know what to say or how to pray. Help us to have faith like a child and trust that you know our hearts in the face of every difficulty. Help us to look up to you for your strength and your help, in even the worst of times. AMEN.

Copyright 2005 C. Curtis Austin a 2BlackDogs Production

Join us as we walk closer to the cross. Next week we will talk about being Close Enough.

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