With the events in the national news in the recent weeks, an image came to mind from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. It was of Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow headed down the yellow brick road through the dense forest, chanting “Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!”
In our case the chant may be “Terrorism, explosions, and flooding, oh my!” In other words, like Dorothy and her friends, we realize danger may be right at hand. Evil is not just some abstract idea, but shows up in deathly ways in our quiet communities, or in the anticipated safe haven of a finish line. Lions and tigers and bears of some sort are lurking about, and oh my, what do we do?
On the heels of the Oz image another scene filled my thoughts. This one was of Jesus encountering his disciples just after he’d gone up on a mountain to pray. While he had been praying, he’d seemed transformed by light and two persons from the past (Moses and Elijah) had appeared and conversed with him. We call the event the Transfiguration and you can read about it in the gospels.
Anyway, returning to his disciples Jesus finds they are frustrated because they cannot deal with an evil spirit that seizes a young boy. The description in scripture makes us think the boy has epilepsy. The father pleads for his son to be healed, but their efforts accomplish nothing.
Jesus heals the boy and then the disciples ask “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29 RSV).
Wow! There are some manifestations of evil that you can only deal with through prayer. Of course that seems obvious; but think of how we turn to so many other things to “protect” us without even considering prayer as part of our arsenal. “Only by prayer” can the evil in us (and in our midst) be rooted out.
I am grateful for first responders, who immediately put themselves at risk when evil erupts. I am thankful for those who work in pre-emptive ways to create and maintain safe environments. But if we are ever to truly address the problem of evil in our world, it will be through prayer.
Prayer is not a panacea for the weak. It is a courageous claim of God’s righteousness and power. When wielded by mature believers, it becomes a bold offensive move against evil. Thus in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, once he describes the “armor” of the Christian, he then says “Pray in the Spirit at all times, in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere for all believers.” (Eph 6:18)
Pray. It is the most significant thing you can do. Pray for our broken world, for our country, for our communities. Pray for the lost, for the hungry, the hurting ones, and those who feel hopeless. Pray for the godless spirit to leave us. There may be times we become overwhelmed with bad news and say, “Oh my!” But let our next exclamation be, “Oh Lord our God, let thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” Amen.