“Are any among you suffering?
They should pray.
Are any cheerful?
They should sing songs of praise. (James 5:13)”
George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” learns that $8,000 has been misplaced by his forgetful Uncle. He despairs. He searches the office. He asks Potter for a loan and is shamed. He goes home but that only shows him the people he thinks he is hurting. He goes to the pub of his friend and bows his head in prayer, “God, oh God, I’m not a praying man but if you are up there, I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way. Show me the way.” God answers but George does not recognize the help. George is focused on his own answer. Angel Second Class Clarence looks about like what his guardian angel might look like that God would send but Clarence has no wings. Answers to prayer may well not come in the way we think they might.
The Biblical Christmas story is not so transparent about the prayers of Joseph and Mary. We do know Zacchariah was visited by an angel when he was praying for his people. An angel did visit Joseph in his distress about whether to take Mary as his wife and we can assume he was praying. When we are distressed our groans are forms of prayer that go beyond the formal prayers we are taught and go beyond the “may I have” or “please help” prayers that we often offer. Prayers when we are in deep distress are admissions that we are at “the end of our rope” but we are at the end of our resources. Like George Bailey, we turn to a God we think might not be listening. We turn to a God who can intervene and change the future that looks so hopeless to us.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
When we turn to God in prayer, we are turning to hope, peace, and joy. May we find time this season to more intentionally turn to God in prayer. Perhaps commit to spend extra five minutes each evening with your Advent candles. Blessings as you reach out to the God who is listening and often answers in creative ways you don’t expect.