Today, I realized I might be going about this prayer thing all wrong.
I was reading today in John 5 about the healing at the pool of Bethesda. The pool was surrounded by five covered colonades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. Waiting. Waiting. Day after day. Hoping against hope that perhaps today might be the day that they would receive their healing. It was said that if an angel of the Lord came along and troubled the waters, the first one into the pool would be healed. I don’t know if these disabled people stayed there all the time: perhaps some did. More likely, family members helped them – perhaps dropping them off by the pool in the morning, and coming back to collect them at the end of the day; perhaps staying there with the disabled one – a last ditch effort to secure healing in a land without ERs or walk in clinics. No physical therapy, no specialist to see. “Just go hang out at the pool – I heard about ONE guy who really was healed – it’s worth a shot!” they might have thought, grasping for some kind of hope – anything, really, in such a hopeless situation.
I’ve been there.
To Bethesda? Well, yes, on a trip to Israel over 25 years ago. I have a vague recollection of a tour that involved this story. But I’m really not talking about the geographical spot, Bethesda.
I’m talking about the last stop before hopelessness. Have you been there, too? Oh, you have absolutely reached the end of yourself. You’ve seen the doctor, been referred to specialists, cried, pounded your fists, searched the internet (Thank you, Al Gore), talked to friends, even, as a last ditch effort, gotten down on your knees and prayed. But nothing. No angel, troubling the water. And even if it did – how the heck are you going to make it into the pool, anyway? You’re lame, for cryin’ outloud! It’s a Catch 22. This poor guy had been lame 38 years. He was well acquainted with suffering, with struggle, and with hopelessness. And now, here he was at the Pool. Clinging to the last shred of hope he could muster. But knowing in his heart of hearts that it was finally clear: there was no help for him. There was no hope for him.
And then, along came this Man. Who had the audacity to ask him if he wanted to get well. “Well, duh. I’m lying here by this Pool with all the rest of these messed up people. What do you think?” Obviously, this fella was a little thick – better explain it to Him: “Ya see, the way this works is, I’ve gotta be the first one in the pool to get my healing, and I’ve got nobody to help me, so if you could just please help me get down to the water whenever it’s troubled – of course, nobody knows when that will be, and I know that you probably don’t have time to stay here with me either, but THAT’S what I need. Just help me get into the water whenever it is troubled, and maybe I’ll be healed.”
I’ve done that, too. Explained to God how to fix my problems. Spelled it all out for the Almighty, so that He could appreciate the finer points and complexities of my particular situation. As if the Creator of the Universe who designed the complexities of DNA, and the intelligent inner workings of each cell needs a little briefing. A bit of coaching as to how to handle my very special, intricate case. Lord, forgive me.
To Jesus, the Pool and all its protocol are irrelevant. To Jesus, it’s all about this man. This lamb. The Great Shepherd of the Sheep stands before him, asking the lame guy if he wants to be well.
Open our eyes, Lord, that we might see You as You stand before us. In strength and majesty, and power.
Jesus commanded the man to stand up and walk. When Jesus commands us to do something, He also provides the power with which to do it.
Close our mouths, Lord, that we might stop trying to tell You how You need to run things, and open our ears to hear Your Life-giving Voice commanding us, empowering us. And that empowered by You, we might walk.