“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13 KJV)
I wrote awhile back about calling 911 for a woman lying in the grass beside a parking lot, with all that she owned in the world scattered around her. When the firemen arrived and saw the woman on the ground, one of them said, “Oh, her again.”
“What do you mean, ‘her again’?” I asked him.
“She’s often at the other end of our calls,” he said.
A couple of weeks later, I found some identification lying in a gutter near the shelter. When I dropped it off at the police station, I found out that it belonged to the same woman. That allowed me to find her name regularly in an In The Courts column in our local newspaper. I began to clip out her records and use them as bookmarks in my Bible, reminding me to pray, as she was re-arrested for drug possession, assault, and misdemeanours like pulling fire alarms, squatting in apartment stairwells, and pushing and shoving those around her.
I can see that God that has given me the opportunity to prayerfully support her heavy burden of physical, mental, and emotional suffering. Such prayers seem to me to have special grace for those like her who live lives of rejection and despair. While she is not safe to contact directly, she remains at the top of the daily list of faces that I bring up to God in the morning.
Although we think that we know who the sinner is here, we who are Christians need to remember that we, too, were once lost, alone, helpless, and often offensive as we sank deeper into this world’s mud, until God’s grace brought us out. We, too, have our burdens and a daily responsibility to deliver them up to Him who invited us to “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 KJV) How do we get off with such a small load of cares that can immediately be given to a loving heavenly Father for removal and blessing? We are the sinners here, knowing the right way to walk, yet often willfully ignoring the opportunity to be free.
In 1925, James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, compiled a book of African-American spirituals that included a gospel hymn that reminds us to include ourselves when praying for someone whom God has brought to our attention: “Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”
Prayer: Dear Father God, keep us faithful in our intercession for those suffering, including ourselves. May we be vigilant and ever watching for any part that we may play in their recovery. How grateful we are for what You have done for us. Now, we accept Your offer to take the pain of others upon us, to keep their faces before Your throne of grace until that glorious day when those for whom we pray find their way to You. In Your Son’s name, we ask it. Amen.
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Reprinted from the PresbyCan Daily Devotional with the author’s permission