PRAY FOR HIM! Such was the headline that screamed at me on Wednesday morning from the front page of the Courier Mail. I stopped. I was taken aback. It's not everyday that a national newspaper leads with a call to prayer!
My heart goes out to Phillip Hughes. We all go to work expecting to come home fit and well. We certainly don't expect a game of cricket to end in an emergency airlift to hospital and emergency surgery. But such was the lot of Hughes after being struck by a ball at the SCG on Tuesday.
When such a tragedy hits, we often rush to offer support. Just like the umpire and opposition team mates in the photo. Team loyalties are left aside – a person's life is in danger!
But sometimes the severity of the situation means we come to the end of our ability to help. We're willing to do something, but we have no power. It's a debilitating feeling to feel desperate to help, but being completely unable to do so. At those times we do just about the only thing we can do. We speak those words - “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” These words are found on the lips of the devout and the irreligious alike. When Julia Gillard once expressed a similar sentiment (that she was “praying for Kevin” before he had an operation), many questioned why an atheist would express her concern and support in the language of prayer. In her defence, speech-writer Dennis Glover noted “the language of the Bible is now part of our culture and you don't have to be a believer to borrow sentiment or even quote it.” (news.com.au November 27 2010) But when we offer our prayers, is this just an echo in our language or is it an echo of our need for something greater?
It's interesting isn't it, that when we get to the end of our power, we still reach beyond ourselves for something, anything, that might be of help? It's even more interesting that the language of prayer is still how we express ourselves in our increasingly post-Christian culture? Does this speak to our inherent (and dare I say God-inbuilt) need for that which is greater than ourselves – God?
But “Pray for him” is more than an expression of support. “Pray for him” is a command; a call to action. Implicit in the command is the concept that this prayer will actually do something; that the God prayed to is able and willing to help Phillip Hughes.
But upon what basis could we know that God is willing and able?
The answer is found in Christmas.
As Christmas comes hurtling towards us, we are reminded that God is both willing and able to help. This is the Christian understanding: God is not an aloof deity, but the God who came near, Jesus. Jesus, the one who became one of us, took on our flesh and experienced life in its joys and sorrows; even dying to help us. Christmas reminds us that God is willing and able to help us. Indeed Phillip Hughes' life is in God's hand. So it's a good idea to pray for him, if you are praying to the God who is willing and able to do something about it. Christmas reminds us that Jesus is both. Is this Christmas the time for you to discover the God who is willing and able to help? Is this Christmas time to discover Jesus?