A Universal Appeal
Detours in Life
Prayer was our topic for a series of discussions during Advent 2015. While we may think of prayer as a purely religious thing, history bears witness that it really is something else. In its simplest definition, prayer is an entreaty, a plea, a request. What makes it different from any other request is that a prayer has a level of earnestness associated with it. Earnestness is not a word used much these days and yet, it is a word that is changing the course of history and has for thousands of years.
I remember getting a question just two days into that series: Why discuss prayer during Advent? The answer, like my decision on this topic, was not as easy as one might deduce. After all, this blog is about thinking of ways we can better our living. While I use the seasons of the liturgical calendar to organize these posts, this blog is not merely theological content nor does it eschew not support any one specific spirituality.
Calendars are organizational tools and the liturgical calendar is no different. The Roman calendar eventually had twelve months in it, an evolution of other calendars tried throughout the history of the Roman Empire. The Hebrew calendar has thirteen months in it. The difference between the two is that the Roman calendar was based on the sun while the Hebrew calendar was based on the moon. If one assumes a month is four weeks long, then a year of 52 weeks divides into thirteen months very easily. Of course, the year being 365 days means that those 52 weeks are not going to encompass all the days. That is why some months on the Roman calendar were longer than others and the decision of which months were longer was often based on politics.
The calendar I use for divisions of topics for this blog is based upon both the Roman and Hebrew calendars. It relies on changes in both the moon and the sun. Christmas, the date of December 25th, was determined based on the Winter Solstice. During the earliest years of the Church, it occurred on December 25th. It was considered the birth of the sun because, after the Winter Solstice, the days grow longer and the sun would appear to ancient man to grow. For the early Christian Church, a group of Jewish believers who recognized the man known as Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah and Christ, the son of God, the symbolism between the natural “sun” and the religious “son” was too good to ignore. In more modern times the date of the Winter Solstice occurs between December 21-23 but is now beginning to move earlier to include December 20th. Christmas, however, has remained a fixed date on December 25th.
There are remnants of the Hebrew calendar still evident in the modern calendar, however. Easter is not a fixed date and changes every year. The date for Easter is based upon the phases of the moon. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Vernal Equinox or Spring Solstice. The Jewish festival of Passover is also celebrated during this time.
We all have our own uniqueness but we also all have a great deal in common. I think we can all think of some time in our life where we needed help; maybe even a time when we really, really needed help. It is those moments of request, earnest and heartfelt requesting that unite us. We all get hungry, cold, scared, and even sick. We also all are born with the ability to experience happiness and joy. Regretfully, while we all experience the conditions of need, not everyone gets a chance to experience the conditions of positive emotion.
A prayer is not just a question for aid. A prayer is not always in the form of a question at all. At times, a prayer is a cry for help, earnest and immediate. It can also be an exclamation of gratitude, although some would say such prayers are accompanied by hidden requests that such good times continue. There are also prayers of remembrance and again one might say they carry a subconscious hope that the person praying is also remembered by the deity to whom the prayer is offered.
Prayer is the first reaction for most in those situations. It is a universal response mankind has engaged in since the beginning of time. We need to watch because we do not know what tomorrow holds, or even twelve hours from now. We need to live goodness and mercy because we all at some point in our life feel we are stuck in a wilderness of sorts.
Hurricane season is in full swing in the USA. With Hurricane Harvey just having left, Hurrican Irma is in the new. Next week we will be discussing Hurricanes Jose, Katia, and Lee, storm systems that have already formed with their own projections. It is a time of great need – need for action, wise thinking, and prayer.
Prayers are those earnest yearnings and the requests of our hearts. Prayer is a universal plea, a universal need. When fully recognized, prayer has universal appeal. We all have hopes. We all have dreams. Far too often we go through life thinking about what we do not have instead of what we do. Prayer is also about gratitude, a gratitude that lets us recognize our own potential. It is something we have in common, the fact that we all have a time in which we will utter a universal plea to that which we feel but cannot fully see, something that we can feel but cannot create on our own. This time of natural emergency created by the effects of nature coming together in a storm system threatening and affecting millions of people recognizes the human in all of us and the need for humanity in the world.
Today the universal pleas of those in Irma’s path are matched by those undergoing persecution for beliefs, their gender, their race or color. The need for better living, for life itself is a universal plea. It should not be determined by race, color, creed or socio-economic status. May we all do our best to live productively, efficiently, wisely without harming others who are attempting to do the same.
The past several days have required a detour of life for many. Evacuating one’s home is difficult; electing to remain is gut-wrenching and scary. Life is not for the cowardly. With faith, effort, and wise decisions, we can navigate the detours of life. All it takes is one breathe, one prayers, one positive step. Best of luck to all affected by life’s storms, whether they be natural or self-made. We can do this thing called life!