Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:19-20
So every Thursday afternoon, Sue Livingood comes over to Desert to pray. With me. And I gotta admit that part of it is downloading a whole chunk of my life into her insightful and honest heart. But most of it is the very real sense that Jesus is present, whether we are sitting in my nicely air-conditioned room or walking up and back along the Pantano Wash. In the big scheme of things those very real aches and bumps to lay before Our Father Which Art in Heaven might seem of paltry significance, but truly in the big scheme of things there is no paltry significance, every woven strand is golden and worth more than two sparrows sold for a farthing in the marketplace.
And as we rummage through the stories, His hand of goodness is so very evident. And this is a good thing to do in the presence of a witness. And while I am a big fan of the prayer closet and my list of fixed prayers so I know that I am praying for Jon and Pamela and Harry and Charly and Lou Lou on Wednesdays and the back and forth swimming of laps, there is a bubbling up joyfulness in two or three gathered in His name.
And every afternoon, or almost every afternoon I make a sort of pilgrimage over to Jack and Mary Anne’s next door. And Pippen greets me with a please-please-scoop-me-up scamper and I go lean up against the file cabinet and review the day. And it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about the newspaper headlines or the kid whose mother just left or who is coming over for dinner, there is that moment at the end where we remind ourselves that He is present, in our midst, and we pray and cast of our cares upon Him for He cares for us. And probably maybe that is why so many people also find the house next door a comforting pilgrimage and His presence indeed permeates the very walls around us.
And reflecting on the moments of two or three gathered together in the past few days, whether it was sharing a bottle of wine under the stars or watching a movie on the living room wall about the destruction of life as we know it masterminded by a crazy North Korean, the bad guy du jour, or a Skype conversation with someone headed off to hear Pope Francis or burros and roasted jalepeños at El Guerro with an old friend or one more time around the table at family dinner, I know that a closing benediction would have been a meaningful act of faith. That only would have honored Him and heartened us as we head out into the world that so wears and tears at our collective souls.
Weston sent me a little story this morning. He too showed Father of Lights to five of his classes and was struck by the simple obedience involved in prayer.
It was a day of stepping out in faith a bit. I just felt so juiced up by how the Spirit is moving that I would just eye people on the bus and wonder what might be. Then this guy came with crutches so I gave him my seat. 'Do I pray for him...?' But I was afraid to. So another guy came on and asked him if he had a ficha for the transmetro, as he only had a 1 quetzal bill. He said no, and then this old guy, fished a coin from his bag and I gratefully traded to avoid the long line for change later in my commute.
I was just struck by his kindness. And it was this little shove, this tiny voice saying go for it. So I asked the guy if I could pray for him and God wants to heal him and I prayed there bending down in the chicken bus. I asked him how he felt and he said better and thank you politely. He told me his name and how he'd been in an accident and showed me x-rays of his leg where the metal plates were screwed in. And something else about an infection, and how he goes to church, but not after the accident. So I said Let's pray again. And that was that, apparently no healing fuego, no transforming shin. As soon as I looked up, I was right at my stop, just in time, Dios te bendiga, bendiciones and ~shoomp~ a la casa.
But I just know that to try was not in vain. And recounting the story I see God's hand at work. I'll probably never see Carlos again, but I walked away full of expectation that God was gonna heal His son.
And so just thinking. Certainly I am not Jesus. But I am stumbling behind him in His footsteps. And I have in my hands His very prayers with which he sent out His disciples into the world. And perhaps these students are not my disciples exactly, but Desert’s vocabulary this year is that I am their ladder holder, and I sure know that ladder holders pray for those teetering up above them.
And in the same way that Weston is stepping into prayer by faith and lots of humility I decided that I would start praying publically with my homeroom class, sending them out into the day to face whatever demons of complacency or selfishness or doubt or loneliness might assail them. And I am now committed to ending my many moments of gathering with a verbal acknowledgement of what I am believing-LORD-help-my-unbelief that He is here in our midst.
And I will hold in my mind the image of the Hindu guru who as he prayed to receive Jesus into his heart, slid the worn sandals off of his feet, for he knew He stood on holy ground.