Be careful what you ask for
The conversation that goes on between God and us - we call it "prayer" - is often filled with much misunderstanding on our part. This is especially true when we make requests of God.
A man writes a letter reflecting on one of his boyhood experiences:
In spite of my fervor, devotion and piety, the Saturday for the picnic was not nice. It was cold and miserable. I took it up with my mother one day while she was ironing.
"Why," I asked, "does the Lord not make a nice day when I pray for a nice day?"
"Oh," my mother said, "suppose some poor farmer prayed for rain on the same day? Do you not suppose that he needs rain as much as you need sunshine?"
The message from this mother to her son was based on our need to realize that we do not live in this world alone. It is so easy to forget that "all souls are the Lord's." It is so easy to forget that we live in a community, and that what we do affects the lives of others. When we speak of community, we often think of our immediate surroundings. But the world is our community! The scripture takes this a step farther by saying to us that "...the strong must bear the infirmities of the weak."
In our prayer time, we should be aware that our requests will affect the lives of so many others. God calls us to a life of selfless living in which we acknowledge our dependence on others and their dependence on us.
When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
During the appointment process I have become more keenly aware that we must be concerned and cognizant in heart and deed that what we do in our local church will have an impact on all churches of Holston Conference, throughout all United Methodism, throughout the Christian community, and, yes, throughout the entire world. A selfish prayer uttered - if answered by God - could cause injury, harm, sorrow, and distress to someone else. Let us resolve to be concerned about our sisters and brothers when we pray.
I offer this prayer to you:
May peace return among all, co-operation unite us, friendship bind us, love rule us, justice prevail among us, self control strengthen us, righteousness exalt us, service ennoble us, the past be forgiven and the future be sanctified for us.
Bishop James Swanson
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