There it was. A stark reminder of a tender wound. Settled in my prayer spot, I opened my Journaling Bible to the reading for that day and saw the scribbled notation of a prayer, penned years before. The ink was a little smeared from what looked suspiciously like a tear stain. How long had it been since I had prayed for that, I wondered? It had been a very long time.
A rupture in the relationship between two dear friends was heartbreaking for them and those who loved them. I had pled for there to be reconciliation on the day I made the note, and I continued to pray daily for peace. For a while. But over time, the bitterness became entrenched, and any change increasingly unlikely. As I lost hope, my prayers dwindled to a plea for the grace to accept what I could not control. Eventually, even those prayers dried up.
I looked at the reminder and sighed. What was the point of praying for something that couldn’t happen? I made a half-hearted petition for God’s will and moved on.
It would be years before I came across that reading again and the reminder of a prayer I lost the hope to pray. A prayer that God answered in a way I could never have imagined. My dear ones had not only made peace, but now laughed together and cared for one another.
I was reminded of Abraham, surveying all the wealth he had accumulated and wondering, what was the point? It would all go to his servant. He looked at the wrinkled face of his beloved Sarah and knew there was no longer any hope of a son. He cried out to God about a promise that could now never be fulfilled. (Genesis 15:2)
And there was Elkanah, whispering gently to the inconsolable Hannah, “don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8), knowing full well his love was not enough to comfort the aching in her womb. He had no hope that God would answer her murmured prayers after all these years of disappointment.
Centuries later, Zachariah would don sacred robes with the tinkling bells at the hem as he prepared for the once in a lifetime honour of entering the Holy of Holies. He would pray for mercy, for forgiveness for any sin and for the grace to represent God’s people. He would pray for his own life to be spared. But he would not pray for a son. The time for child-bearing was long past for his Elizabeth.
The centuries of silence had wearied many of God’s people. There were religious leaders who had defaulted to “going along to get along” with Rome, knowing a Messiah was a pipe-dream at best and a danger if one actually did appear. There were worshipers who waited in hope, but others who sang the psalms and made the sacrifices but expected little. Yet the Messiah they had given up the hope of seeing was on the horizon.
Despite the weariness that saps our hope, over and over, God proves faithful and answers the prayers we have lost the hope to pray. Abraham and Sarah become the parents of not only a son, but a nation. Hannah and Elkanah become the parents of a great prophet. Zechariah is stunned speechless to learn his Elizabeth will bear a child. But she, sheltering the second Elijah in her womb, shouts, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:46) and rejoices to recognize the Hope of Israel, carried in the teen–aged body of Mary.
The God, who is Faithfulness, continues to answer the prayers we have lost the hope to pray, even the forgotten prayers of a simple woman, grieving for her friends, in a dusky pre-dawn quiet time. God may be planting prayers in our hearts for “children yet unborn” – prayers we will not live to see answered. Or the answers may be quite different than the agenda we have set out for God, but the One who is Hope, answers in ways beyond our imagination. And those answers give us the hope to continue to pray and to trust God’s faithfulness, always.
Marie is a retired priest in the Diocese of Algoma, serving as an Honourary Assistant, Spiritual Director and grief work volunteer. She and her best-friend-husband Rob, live in Northern Ontario and have three grown children who have blessed them with a baker’s dozen of grandchildren. You will often find her, hands in the dirt of her garden or dreaming by Lake Nipissing if she is not pecking away on her computer.
Marie is currently working on a book/Bible Study/Journal about walking in forgiveness, “Along the Path of Grace”