Today’s Epistle reading from Romans is jammed full of good advice about daily living. The verses move from loving and respecting others, to working hard, to sharing with others, to hospitality, to compassion for others, including forgiveness, then to humility. What a ‘to do’ list!
But it was verse 12 which caught my eye. ‘Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times’.
I’m not sure that living in a state of hope is always joyful. In fact, it can cause frustration and anguish because of its unknown time frame. Hope differs from expectation. We hope, but we are never sure when or if an outcome will eventuate. But with expectation, we know that the outcome will eventuate, we may even have an indication of when this will be, we just have to let time pass. Maybe Paul is subtly telling us to only hope for good things and because they are good, despite the unknowns of if and when, they will give us joy.
Again, Paul seems to ask a lot when he advises us to be patient in our troubles. The Hebrew people, shackled in slavery, had to wait around four hundred years for God to hear their cry in Egypt – that’s probably eight generations. How long is too long? Certainly, we understand that God’s time is not our time. Nevertheless, when in the midst of our troubles, this can be frustrating to manage. In hindsight, though, we can appreciate God’s timing when we see the unfolding of God’s intervention.
And finally, in verse twelve, Paul asks us to pray at all times. Until recent times, I have not been a good prayer either privately or in public. I’m better now! But I believe that our Evangelical and Catholic friends are both good at prayer but in different ways. In my observation, the evangelicals are always ready to pray to God for lots of things, people and situations at any time. Their prayers can go on and on and encompass all things. They can get out of hand. The Catholics, on the other hand, spend more time in private prayer, often in public spaces. I spent some time in St Francis’ Catholic Church in the city on Wednesday. I was there for about half an hour leading up to lunch time. I observed lots of people entering to spend time in private prayer, both in the main church and in the Chapel of Our Lady as well as seeing them line up for confession. I was taken by their devotion. So, this is what Paul asks us to do. We have to make time to pray as we will in our own time as well as joining in corporate prayer in our places of worship.
What a trifecta! Keep hope joyful, stay patient in our troubles and pray at all times. And that’s only to comply with verse twelve. You know, hope, trouble and prayer are relevant to all of us. Why not take on board verse twelve this week and see how you go.
Love and peace,