Have you ever felt “weak in the knees?” I have. Not to get too personal, but the last year or so has been a bit like that for me. Maybe it has something to do with my age—midlife being what it is. Anyway, whatever the stage of life there are times when one comes face-to-face with himself. You begin to consider how, almost unconsciously, things are broken-down in this or that area of life. You even start noticing it in the lives of others. It’s a kind of meltdown, a weakness so to speak.
Our community is feeling something like this right now. You might argue that it’s more like a punch in the stomach, such has been our pain. Private prayer and public conversation center on the physical well being of a little boy, named Ethan, in our circle of concern. Our collective heart breaks for a young life and dear family who find themselves in crisis. There are others too in our hearts for whom we love and pray.
Wherever you may be, the story is repeated. There’s plenty of struggle and pain to go around. On a national and global scale, inevitable questions about economic conditions prevail. You cannot turn on CNN without hearing about the mortgage crisis, the closing or buying out of some financial institution, the bailout plan, or some layered approach by the new administration. It’s more than I can understand. It makes me weak in the knees.
Maybe that is a blessing—this weakness I mean. In some ways for me this past year has been a really good thing. Sometimes it is only when we come to a place of weakness or “humility” that we find renewed strength or ability. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes crisis offers new opportunity—for growth, healing, and such. Despair can drive one to prayer.
I know that’s true right now in our community of faith. There is a renewed spirit of prayer and mission, initiated by our love and concern for a little boy. One of our deacons approached me following last Sunday’s sermon inquiring about the nuances of prayer and fasting. Stirring within him was a clear reminder that we all are totally dependent upon God. It’s the first time in 27 years at this church that anyone has asked me about how to fast. As a community right now, our knees are weak. That can be a good thing.
Abraham Lincoln once wrote—“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of those about me seemed insufficient for the day.” Jesus understood the wisdom of prayer, and fasting for that matter. He understood that his relationship with the Father was the wellspring, the source of his life—his perspective, his power. That’s why he combined the two during his 40 days in the desert right at the head of his ministry. The early church practiced the same. And for those of us who think only the Roman Catholics have continued the practice—don’t forget that Luther, Calvin, Wesley and Edwards prayed and fasted (good ol’ Protestants).
If I may—here’s why one should fast and pray. In a more tangible, visceral way than any other spiritual practice—they both remind us of our truest need. They reveal our excessive attachment to the material, to self. Food is necessary of course. For that matter, self-autonomy is as well. But we have made food (the material) and self more necessary than God. How often have we neglected to remember God—his presence and provision—when we would never forget to eat or to fend for self?!
Prayer and fasting bring us face to face with how we so often put everything else ahead of the one true Source of all of life. For this, I am thankful to be “weak in the knees.”