Groaning in prayer for the world

It’s 10:30 a.m., a dreary January 22 in Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catharines. A thoughtful children’s ministry leader prays with the kids before she herds them to “Joy Jam, Jr.” As they leave, a young girl who will never take a mouthful of food has been blessedly wheeling up and down the aisle in her walker; she joins her friends downstairs via elevator.

Introducing the service of confession, our early-20s worship leader prays that we stay alert to God’s work and Presence. A middle-aged man in a wheel chair has never spoken a word I can understand. He grunts often, praying for and with us. We all sing, “For you, O Lord, our souls in stillness wait. Truly our hope is in you.”

For months I’ve been puzzled about that Hope that sometimes seems momentarily strong, but usually elusive. The last two days that wondering decayed into poisonous doubt, leavened sometimes venomously with anger. Two days ago I saw too many people cheer a boorish corporate welfare bum as he incited them, “Only America first.” My stomach turned.

Now a life-long teacher leads what we once called the “long prayer.” This one could have been longer. She prayed for our congregation to be “like a light set on a hill in your way.” I am hopeful, slightly heartened; prayer can do that. I recalled the recitation of Matthew 5’s Beatitudes at Donald Trump’s inauguration. That sole allusion to humility in a tsunami of national hubris to “make America great again” rang needed notes of spiritual realism to an otherwise self-referential gala.

Yet the speech’s mean words repeated campaign memes, trying to rebuy the support of neglected millions who have sunk ever lower due partly to business practices like those of the man they elected. Regardless, the Beatitudes offer truer greatness than any nation or leader can imagine.

All need prayer

I live in two worlds. One is the hyper-cruel projection of Donald Trump’s narcissism that I cannot escape from, nor should. The other is a small community resolutely rejecting such wicked folly, praying for forgiveness when we slop at its toxic trough.

Meanwhile the man in the wheelchair keeps praying in groans that cannot be expressed, but must be uttered. I hear the voice of Jesus, praying for the world, Donald Trump and me. All need prayer.

Our guest pastor began preaching on the Light of the World via Matthew 25’s parable of five foolish and five wise bridesmaids. “We are guests at the wedding. Our job is to reveal and celebrate Jesus’ presence; he can be found anywhere.”

I try to build my life on the foundation of the large community of my congregation and many such others all over God’s world. It’s a larger, truer world than that of torture, military power and border fences. Such congregations reveal Jesus as the Light of the World more faithfully than governments with even the best enlightened self-interest policies.

Excessive feeding on news about the world’s capitols’ schemes is akin to addiction to pornography or drugs. News reports and panel analyses by very able people promise more than they can deliver. They always leave insatiable yearning. Yet their efforts are worthy, their diets necessary in proportion, because we do live in God’s World, where people in desperate need live where that old news always happens.

So I’m not dropping out, but do limit vicarious feeding on such things by no means too wonderful for me; my community and I have little influence over most such issues. Regardless, I will continue to write my Member of Parliament. I will continue to accompany newcomers to Canada to the clinic or to buy decent shoes – and pray. Thanks to Dick Van Veldhuizen (Letter to the Editor, page 5) for reminding me of that.

Maybe the integral message of our 80-minute worship service will grow like a healthy leaven, possibly causing me inconvenience, encountering misunderstanding or opposition. That’s fair. Meanwhile, Jesus keeps groaning and praying from his wheelchair. Someday he’ll walk and talk, though. This much I know is true.


  • James Dekker

    Jim is a semi-retired Christian Reformed pastor and missionary who now works for Resonate Global Mission ten hours a week as "Member Care Coordinator," which means "Pastor to Missionaries," because where lots of our missionaries work it's inadvisable to use pastor or missionary publicly. That cool job puts a framework to his week, keeps him in contact with hundreds of even cooler servants of Jesus all over the world, compels him to travel to visit them once in a while, though he connects with them via email and Zoom most of the time. The rest of the time Jim reads books--lots of free ones that he "pays for" with reviews. He was acclaimed President of Christian Courier Board of Directors while on his way to that meeting from a long ophthalmologist appointment. As long as God gives his wife Rose and him health, they ride a tandem bike around Niagara and other places in the bikeable months, paddle canoes and kayaks, visit children and grandchildren in the distant places they live because their parents provided them poor role models for stability of residence.

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