Bishop Hughes notes that during this complicated time, it is not unusual for someone to say to her, “I don't know how to hold on to hope right now. I’m so frustrated, I am so angry, I have had enough.” Or, “I’m exhausted, I can't bring myself to care anymore.” And when she replies, “How about we pray?” there's a sense of hope that is reborn in wanting to pray. (Time: 4:54.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark, and I want to talk with you about hope, and in a very specific way. It is the hope I see and hear and experience with people when they ask for me to pray.
Now I’ve been clergy for a while now, so it is not unusual for me to get asked to pray – at the beginning of meals, at the beginning of a meeting, before people head out on travel, at graduations, certainly in services – but one of the special ways I get to pray is when an individual comes to me and says, “There is this situation happening in my life or in the life of someone that I love – would you please pray for us?” And they want me to stop whatever it is I’m doing right then and pray for them. And it is a privilege to get to stand next to them, lay my hands – usually on their shoulder – and then I lift my other hand towards the direction where I believe God is, and then I pray. And it's usually a very simple prayer, reminding me and the person that I’m beseeching Jesus to assist them, to help them, to be with them, to bring healing in mind, body and spirit – to whatever the situation is.
The interesting thing to me when someone asks for prayer like that is they never put a qualification on it. They never say, “I believe deeply so would you pl please play for me.” They never say, “I’m not sure what I believe but would you please pray for me.” They never say, “God may not answer this prayer, would you please pray for me.” No one ever puts any qualification on it at all. They always come in great hope – not only that I pray but that God will answer those prayers.
I think all of us have experienced that with somebody somewhere – someone asking for us to pray and that quiet moment of being able to pray with them, and this incredible sense of hopefulness that we have as the person who's saying the prayer, but also as the person who's being prayed for – the great hopefulness that they stand in as they receive those prayers. It is that moment of hope that I think all of us carry around with us in some way.
I think this time that we're in has been so complicated, it's gone on for so long, it has been so wearying on our spirits and on our emotions. We have persevered through much of it and we are ready for something different and yet it has not come yet. And it is not unusual for someone to say to me, “I don't know how to hold on to hope right now. I’m so frustrated, I am so angry, I have had enough.” Or, “I’m exhausted, I can't bring myself to care anymore.”
And it's an interesting thing when somebody says that to me and I say, “How about we pray?” And they do exactly what everyone does – “Yes, let's pray” – and there's a sense of hope that is reborn in wanting to pray. I hold that out for us all.
And you know it's an interesting thing whenever I say, let's pray about something, there is this sense – occasionally people will say to me that everything isn't spiritual, that you have to do things. Yes, you have to do things. Yes, we have to make phone calls. Yes, we have to make decisions. Yes, we have to show up in places. Yes, we have to stand up for those who are outcasts or broken-hearted. Yes, we must do all those things. And – and – when we pray, we receive our sense of hope again. Because when we turn to God and we are waiting for God to do something, it's because we believe – that part of us that belongs completely to God believes – that God can make a difference in the situation that we're in.
So if you are struggling with hope right now I want to encourage you to pray. And if you can't find the words for yourself, look in the Prayer Book. Look in the 800 pages – meaning the page is starting with 800, not all 800 pages – but look in those pages at the prayers and find one that does say the words for you. Or, ask someone else if they will pray for you. In that quiet moment when you are praying, you will find hope again.