We returned to the atrium last week. I had planned to present The Parable of the Insistent Friend. This is a favorite of mine. Over the last few months I have been struck by the life-altering impact of intercessory prayer, and no parable demonstrates this better than The Insistent Friend.
A man wakens his neighbor in the dead of night asking for bread to feed an unexpected house guest. The neighbor is clearly miffed and turns the man away. But the man persists. And in the end the neighbor caves.
Why does he cave? Because of the man's persistence.
What does he give him? All that he needs.
The Gospels provide example after example of the power of intercessory prayer, poignant testimonies of God's particular generosity when we come on behalf of someone else.
-- Jesus performs his first miracle when Mary intercedes for a bride and groom.
-- The centurion's servant is healed from afar when his superior officer asks for Jesus' healing touch.
-- A paralytic is healed when his friends tear open a roof to lower him into the presence of the Lord.
We have had several weeks -- months, actually -- of distressing news. Friends and relatives are facing grim circumstances, frightening diagnoses. We have lost a beloved aunt and a dear neighbor who was like a second father to us.
Our friend Peter is facing his third bout of lymphoma. Our friend Karen has a recurrence of breast cancer. Our friend Sue is battling ovarian cancer for the third time.
My word for 2012 is fortitude. I believe that fortitude is especially important to exercise in the realm of prayer. How often do I hear about a troubling situation and blithely reply, "I'll pray for you." But do I really pray? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Tim ended up in the ER Sunday night. He started the day with a mild stomach virus and ending up with what appeared to be another anaphylactic reaction. Hives, puffy lips, swollen eyelids -- potentially serious, serious stuff. I scribbled down Tim's symptoms and the medications he had taken that day. I pulled out his Epipen with my heart racing a bit as I pondered the possibility of Dave needing to inject Tim on the way to the hospital.
And of course I prayed. I made it through most of my rosary when I started to nod off. I sat myself up and persevered ... and nodded off again and again. But I made myself finish. I summoned my fortitude which can be woefully lacking at 1:00 a.m.. At times like this I fully understand the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane who failed to stay with Jesus even one hour.
Thanks be to God, Tim is just fine.
From a Bible study I just read:
For Peter, for Karen, for Sue, it's time to be insistent -- even shameless -- in our intercession. Let's dismantle the roof and lower our friends into the arms of God.
Rachel Balducci closed this week's episode of The Gist with a quote from Saint Teresa of Avila: You give God a compliment by asking great things of him.