“The breaking of so great a thing
A greater crack: the round world
Should have shook lions into civil streets,
And citizens to their dens.”
My husband stood at the front of the sanctuary, in no way prepared for the queue of people five and ten deep. Three services and many people later, he said it felt like facing a tsunami of need with nothing but an umbrella. He prayed for broken marriages, for addictions, for those caught in the vise of sin. He prayed for forgiveness, for night terrors, and for remnants of abuse that cling to the abused like trapped dirt under short fingernails.
All of this on a single Sunday, in a single congregation. Need upon need upon need.
I hear him tell of this unending wave of brokenness, and I can hardly bear the weight of the stories. They stand on the shoulders of a world cracked with despair and grief. A world suffering losses so great and so heinous and so beyond comprehension, that reading the daily news shakes me down to the deepest places. Living in the ‘not yet’ of the Kingdom of God is enough to extinguish the pilot flame of hope flickering in a soul.
My husband reminds me prayer is where we begin when we want to enter into the ‘now’ of the Kingdom. I want to believe this, and most days I do. I want to believe that prayer changes lives, that it scrapes the dirt from beneath our nails, and moves the heart of God, and gives us power over the darkness of this world. I want to believe it is not simply a band-aid over the cracked surface, but that it fills the fissures with soil rich enough to make life grow new.
My prayers change as my hearing tunes in to the sound of the world cracking. Increasingly, I find myself moving away from the “Dear God please fix this” kind of prayer, to the kind of prayer that requires a bit of brokenness on my part too. I want to reach the point where I can pray, without fear and trembling, “God break my heart for what breaks yours.” I’m afraid to go there yet, afraid that living with a heart cracked as wide as the world’s will hurt too much.
When we pray this kind of prayer, it delivers the kind of cracking that shakes things free in us, that enables us to move out in faith where the lions prowl and the devil devours. I want this kind of freedom, rooted in my own broken heart, stirring me to deeper prayer, to selflessness, and to small acts of kindness and justice that just might change the world. Asking for a broken heart may be the most radical prayer I’ve prayed yet.
What are you praying for today? How have your prayers changed over time?