For the past few months, we have been writing our own prayers of the people instead of just using the prayers out of the Sundays and Seasons resource. During the latter half of the summer, Jono, our Project Connect immersion experience student was writing them (and well I might add). When his time ended, I picked up writing them again. This past Sunday, I realized that my writing left something to be desired. One of my petitions said,
Compassionate God, sustain all who suffer with your promise of new life. Strengthen those who are oppressed, heal those who are ill, comfort those who are afflicted.
I didn't pick the problem up when I wrote it. I didn't pick the problem up when it was prayed in our service on Sunday morning. I picked it up when I prayed it at the evening service at the Lutheran Campus Ministry at WVU.
The problem is that first line. I realize that everything hangs on whether you suffer FROM or WITH something. We generally suffer FROM diseases and ailments, but we can indeed suffer WITH them as well. So it struck me as odd when I prayed "sustain all those who suffer with your promise of new life." I suppose my intent was to pray "Sustain with your promise of new life all those who suffer." That would have been better writing.
Maybe it struck me as odd because we had just read in Philippians (3:10), "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death," where the promise of the resurrection is linked with suffering. Perhaps unintentionally, I prayed for all of us who suffer with this promise that brings suffering.
We want Christ but maybe not any suffering, even though the way Paul writes they go together. Luther marked suffering as a mark of the church. This mark, this verse, is a challenge to us who live comfortable lives. It is awfully easy to rationalize taking the path of least resistance... even when we are usually fairly faithful.
So maybe my prayer was right. Unintentional... but right.