…God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! – Psalm 66:19-20 (NIV)
On January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti’s capital city, Port-Au-Prince, and much of the surrounding area. It claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more. One of the images that has remained with me all these years later is that of a 21-year-old man, trapped under the rubble of a five-story building. Nearly four days after the building collapsed, he was still lying on his side, pinned under a large slab of concrete.
A crowd is gathered around as family members and rescue workers go about the painstakingly slow and difficult task of digging him out, using chisels and a blowtorch. The man is conscious and seems to be saying something, but they can’t quite make it out. So someone passes a reporter’s microphone to the man and asks him, “What are you saying to yourself?”
The man calmly responds, “As I am a Christian, I say: Jesus, you know my life is in your hands.” I remember how struck I was by his response. It wasn’t an impassioned cry for help or plea for mercy, which is what I was expecting – and which would no doubt have been coming out of my mouth. Instead, it was a statement of belief; a confession of faith: “Jesus, you know my life is in your hands.”
The man’s declaration comes to mind as I think about the Intercessory Prayers at Prince of Peace. Traditionally – and in every church I’m familiar with – each petition ends with, “Lord, in your mercy,” and the people respond, “hear our prayer.” But I immediately noticed the difference the first time I worshiped with this community: “Lord, in your mercy, you hear our prayer.”
The insertion of this three-letter word changes everything. In bringing our prayers to God, we are not asking God to hear them; we are expressing our belief that God does hear them! How and when God chooses to respond is, of course, part of the divine mystery. But we can boldly proclaim with the psalmist, “God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.”
We give you thanks, O Lord, that in your infinite love and mercy, you hear our prayer. When our faith falters, remind us of this truth. Amen.