Sunday, January 18, 2015

The right and left hands of love

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’
Luke 17:11-19, English Standard Version

The most important principle about prayer which is missed by so many, especially those monergists who say that man can do nothing to add (and even sometimes, they claim, to subtract from) what God does for man to save him, is that the prayer of faith requires action on our part as well.

We lepers cry out, ‘Lord, have mercy on us!’ and if we listen, since the Lord we ask has already decided to grant our request—‘You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it’ (John 14:14)—He will always ask something of us in return. What He requires is for us to confirm our faith.

‘How?’ you may ask. In the case of leprosy, He tells the lepers to go to the priest, in Israel the official inspector of leprosy from whom alone one can obtain a certificate of ‘in good health.’ None of them argue, ‘How can I do that? I’ve got leprosy! When will it go away?’ All just do it.

Scripture testifies, ‘and as they went they were cleansed.’ Never mind the appearance and odor of decaying flesh under these sack-clothes. Stop shaking your warning rattle. Set your face towards Jerusalem. Greet all who pass you as brothers. Trust that your prayer is answered.

We see this principle in action all around us, though we seldom notice. It is brought to our attention sometimes in a good film, like Ostrov (The Island). A woman brings her lame son to Fr Anatoly. He prays simply but fervently, then takes the boy’s crutches away and tells him, ‘Walk!’

The mother is frightened, but the boy does as he is told. His walk is halting at first. Fr Anatoly tells him that he will be fully healed in a little while, but first he must stay overnight at the monastery and receive the Holy Mysteries in the morning. The mother objects, and Fr Anatoly throws her out.

Sometimes prayer requires us to take harsh measures. As the woman is leaving with her son for the mainland, Fr Anatoly jumps into the freezing waters and sloshes to the boat, grabs the boy out of his mother’s arms, and returns to the monastery with him. The mother must believe.

The principle is found everywhere in the Bible, which is why we read it every day, to grow in synergy with God, which is what ‘knowing the Lord’ really means. No one can know God personally, only by hearsay, except the one who knows for sure that ‘God is for us’ and acts on it.

‘What do you mean, If I can?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes’ (Mark 9:23). What we must get over, like the man who brought his demon-tormented son to Christ, is that we can live our earthly lives in faith, knowing that we have power that even angels do not possess.

Because humanity, not the bodiless powers, have been adopted into the family of the Holy Trinity, all of us, as sons and daughters of the Most High, not created to be servants, but kings and queens, priests offering all for all before the Presence, by faith, and by action, the right and left hands of love.

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