Updated on August 31, 2017
When prayers seem small and the water keeps rising
“The water reaches all the way up there?” my little guy points to the top of the street sign as we stand in early morning light at the bus stop. The sun is cresting orange and pink into the sky all around us, but it’s the street sign that holds his gaze. He has seen the pictures on the news of the devastating floods in Texas, and he’s doing what we are all doing this week. He’s picturing it happening here. His eyes are as big as saucers as he tips his head skyward, “Why did God let so much water fall from the sky? Doesn’t he know that we can’t handle it?”
His question brings that unexpected sting to my eyes as I too stare at the top of that street sign; all the pictures of the water and the people running through my mind. “Yeah, little friend, he knows. Of course he knows. And his heart is breaking for those people.” I feel this helplessness in my answer as the squeaking bus rolls up and ends our conversation.
“Why? Doesn’t God know we can’t handle it?”
Honestly, I struggle to make sense of it all myself. And maybe we all do? We watch the news and hear the stories as we walk on our dry land, drive our cars, do our work, sleep in our warm beds and feel desperately sad for those contending with the floods in Texas.
Doesn’t God know that’s enough? They’re running the cattle through the streets praying they all make it to higher ground, sending boats into nursing homes and busting holes in their roofs to get out. Doesn’t God know they can’t handle anymore?
And what are we to do; safe and secure on solid ground? We rally our people. We donate our money. We give our blood. We gather supplies to send. These are all good things; but they never feel like enough. The pictures of devastation just keep coming. And my heart breaks with each story I read. Send help, one guy says as the rain pelts him and the news reporter in the face, we’ve lost everything.
We bow our heads in prayer. We pray these earnest prayers for those we do not know who stand in circumstances we cannot even imagine. Water up to the street signs, cars completely submerged, houses abandoned, possessions floating down desolate streets. Send help, we’ve lost it all.
“I think we should go and help them”, the little one picks up the conversation as soon as he is home from school. “Let’s just go. We could take them some new rain coats and boots.”
And I love his heart. Me, too. Let’s just go help. We watch the news again and because I was raised on Mr. Rogers, I point out the helpers. I love the helpers, the heroes, the ones who go and pull others from sinking cars and crumbling roofs. The ones who jump into rushing waters and who open their furniture stores to the displaced and the overwhelmed. It reminds me that goodness is still here; that love does win; that God does work through us to love our neighbor. Let’s just go help. Yeah.
But how? My money, my bottles of water, my diapers purchased and household supplies sent can help.
But me? I am not a hero. I’m a scatter- brained mom with a bunch of rowdy kids who lives thousands of miles from the rain soaked roads of Texas.
I lift up a simple prayer again, but my heart begins to wonder if it matters?
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” And I really do believe that, but it still feels “less than.” Taking them boots and raincoats seems more helpful?
But then I remember this scene from the book of Revelation. The Apostle John, the writer of this last book of the Bible describes these visions that God gives him of heaven. This book of the Bible is the gift that God leaves with us as he closes the Scriptures; a vision of our true home. And in the scene where John sees the very Holy of Holies, the place where the living God dwells, he sees the most amazing thing. Right next to God’s throne are these creatures holding “golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the people of God” (Revelation 5:8, emphasis mine).
The prayers for the water- logged streets of Texas, for broken homes and busted dreams, the prayers for your hurting neighbor, your wounded friend, your wayward kid, the warring countries, the poor and desolate among us; the prayers whispered in the dark and pulled from your own aching heart. Those prayers are held right before the very throne of God. Every prayer we’ve uttered in every desperate and seemingly hopeless situation has made its way into that space. And their aroma fills heaven. God doesn’t just hear our prayers; he breathes them.
Lord, be with the people of Texas. Walk through waters to get them. Comfort them with your love. Protect their children and their elderly. Protect the rescuers and the ones tasked with keeping them all safe. Speak into their shattered lives like only you can. Be their ever present help in this time of trouble. And remind us all, Jesus, that you, too have walked the road of suffering. You sent your help for us by losing everything. You are indeed a God who gets that we can’t handle this. And you are with us when we suffer. Hold that great state of Texas close, Lord.
Yes. It all matters. We, as the people of God, are called to do the good we can, where we can. We cannot all drive to Texas and pull children from the floodwaters. We might not all even have the resources to send boots and raincoats. But, we do no small thing when we lift up our eyes and our hearts to our Creator in prayer. Because, yes. It matters that we pray; oh how it matters.
*** So friends, continue to lift our Texas brothers and sisters up in prayer. And let’s keep doing the good we can where we can to help our neighbors. They don’t just need boots and raincoats; they need everything. I am attaching just a few links for places to donate; if you are able. These places that are doing the good work of being the hands and feet of Jesus. There are lots of others out there; feel free to link to other charities in the comments if you have some.