“I believe; help my unbelief!”
– Mark 9:24, NRSV
“‘Amen,'” author Anne Lamott writes, “is how most of us end our prayers, the standard response to prayers in the synagogue and the church and the most. The word means ‘And so it is’ or ‘Truly'” (Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, 91). For my part, I’ve most often heard it translated as “so be it.”
Yet Lamott has yet another translation, another way of conceiving of this ancient closing for prayer. She writes: “It is us, the damaged, hopeless people, lifting up our hope, hate, gratitude, fear, and shame, saying, Boy do we hope we are right about this God stuff.”
Not a bad translation, in my humble opinion. Oh, it may read like doubt. (We “hope” we’re right about this God stuff? Does this author even believe in God?) It may read like doubt, and generally speaking, we Christians aren’t terribly comfortable with doubt. We haven’t quite made our peace with doubt. We so often assume that faith and doubt, belief and unbelief, are mutually exclusive realities… that one cannot exist where the other has taken hold.
That assumption is wrong, of course. In my own life of faith, and in my experience of ministry, I’ve come to find it takes a great deal of faith and trust to whisper those honest words of honest doubt. God, are you listening? Is anybody listening? Am I just talking to myself? Well… “amen” anyway… and I hope I’m right about this God stuff.
It takes a great deal of faith and trust to whisper such honest words… and what’s more, I believe God delights in such honest words.
It’s your prayer, friends. It’s your “amen.” Might as well fill it with all that is within you, whatever is within you, whatever mix of faith and doubt is within you. So… prayer’s choice: Amen! And so it is! Truly! So be it! Boy do we hope we are right about this God stuff! As you pray in this hard and uncertain season, may you offer God your most honest prayers, your most authentic “amens.”
Our God is bigger than doubt, after all. What’s more:
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
Pastor’s Note: Our July sermon series will be inspired by Anne Lamott’s bestselling book “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.” It is available through Riverhead Books publishing, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Highly recommended!
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