The Greatest Prayer – Br. John Braught

johnbraught_1John 16:20-24

One of the great strengths of the Christian faith is that it does not shy away from the fact of pain and suffering. We worship a crucified Lord.  We worship a God who knew pain.

Jesus says we too will have pain, and none of us probably need reminded of that. What we might need reminded of is that Jesus promises that our pain – much like the pain of childbirth – our pain will be turned to joy. “So you have pain now,” Jesus says, “but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” We don’t just worship a crucified Lord; we worship a resurrected and ascended Lord. Our faith is the assurance that though we will have pain – and all of us have, and many of us do – though we will have pain, our faith is the assurance that there is hope, and there is resurrection. When we see Jesus again, and we will, our pain will be turned to joy.

Pain is a great motivator. It is our pain that compels to grow, it is our pain that compels us to make changes, and it is our pain that compels us to ask for help. A lot of us don’t like to ask for help, but we need help. We need a lot of help. God knows that. And maybe you know that. We need help, but we have to ask for it.

In our praying of the daily office, we keep to the Jewish tradition of beginning the new day at sundown with evensong. The prayer that introduces that monastic hour is a scream, a cry for help. “O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us.” The first prayer of the new day is, “God help me!” The greatest prayer. This is not a perfunctory prayer, and it’s not what some might call a foxhole prayer: “Lord, get me out of this one and I’ll never do it again.”

“God help me!” Said without qualification from the core of being, with every aching cell of our body. Born out of pain. Born out of surrender. The recognition that we have problems that we can’t solve. “God help me!” God hears our prayer. Just how the help will come, we cannot say, for when we utter such a prayer we are in no position to negotiate the terms of the surrender. The terms are set by Jesus, which is why a lot of us might not like asking for help, because it indicates a loss of control. But those are the terms; those are the terms under which we will see Jesus again.

Jesus comes to us in our weakness. Jesus comes to us in our pain. Jesus comes to us in those areas of our life where we are precisely not in control, or where we are unmanageable. We just have to admit it. “God help me!” When we utter such a prayer, Jesus will come. And when he comes, our pain will be turned to joy. The joy of having seen Jesus again, to be reminded that he is walking beside us, that he can carry us if need be, and that we never have to be alone.  Amen.

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  1. Jerome Berkeley on June 5, 2014 at 07:29

    Wow! What a wonderful, honest, raw lesson. It takes me back one of the lessons still resonating from the Love Life Lenten series, that being the notion of being vulnerable; how difficult it can be to accept my own limitations, my own brokenness. Yet those are the ingredients which fortify my faith because it forces me to trust and rely on God. Thank you for this courageous sermon, Br. John. It en-courages me greatly!

  2. Ruth West on June 4, 2014 at 17:55

    Thanks for this good message, Br. John. Our Lord and Savior suffered pain so intense we cannot imagine it. He never promised us to be pain-free.
    But we know that “Joy comes in the morning.”
    How often we must call for His help! He gives us the grace with which we can cope, even if the pain does not go away. Praise be to His name!

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