“What a Christian Prays For”

The Fifth Sunday in Lent: Year B

Sermon by Patrick Foster

Do you have a favorite passage in the Bible? I’m going to guess that probably most of us do. Heaven knows, I’m not a bible scholar by any means but I’ve read many different passages over the years and one in particular has always gladdened my heart. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past year because I think it’s particularly appropriate in view of the current world situation.

The passage is from the Book of Isaiah, which is one of my favorite books  of the Bible. It’s the second chapter, 4th verse, which reads:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares

And their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore.

It’s a beautiful sentiment. Just think about it; a world in which armies don’t exist because armies aren’t needed. There’s no war, no global hotspots, no conflicts anywhere. There’s no hatred, no animosity. Man has finally learned to understand and accept his fellow man.

We parents and grandparents would no longer have to worry that our sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews might have to go fight and perhaps die in some far-off country in a conflict we find difficult to understand. We would no longer have to spend trillions of dollars on defense, on maintaining a large standing army, navy, and air force. We could disband our Space Force so that our only voyages across the great ocean of outer space are for knowledge, and exploration. Instead of spending vast sums on war and all its terrible components, we could instead utilize our vast treasure to improve the lives of those less fortunate than us. It sounds like a Utopia, doesn’t it?

Think of how the United States and all the nations of the world could use the monies now spent on defense to instead help the poor and the needy. We could transform society into something approaching a paradise on earth, a true brotherhood of man. Hunger and homelessness would disappear, along with despair. It’s a pity that it doesn’t seem possible at this time in the earth’s long history. But apparently, it’s not.

How can we as a species ever hope to communicate with people from other planets when we cannot communicate with people on our own planet?

I think it’s a sad commentary that although America is the richest country that has ever existed, many of our people are hungry, or homeless. Too much of our wealth is spent on frivolous things, and not enough on helping the unfortunate. It’s not that we don’t have enough money, it’s that we’re forced to spend a lot of it defending ourselves. And also, because some people believe it’s wrong to give an unfortunate person a handout. How any Christian can believe that is beyond me.

But getting back to Isaiah’s words, I think there’s a great lesson to be learned.

Let me read you the full passage in its entirety, which is often overlooked.

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established

as the highest of the mountains.

 It will be exalted above the hills,

and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the temple of the God of Jacob.

 He will teach us his ways,

so that we may walk in his paths.”

 The law will go out from Zion,

the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

 He will judge between the nations

and will settle disputes for many peoples.

 They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore.

 Come, descendants of Jacob,

Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 It beautifully illustrates that the prayers of Christians should rightfully be prayers for goodwill, and harmony. We should pray for peace in the world and pray with love for our fellow man and woman; we should pray for understanding among all people. Selfless love of others is, in my opinion, the most important Christian principle.

It makes Christianity different from some beliefs. And it makes Christians different as well. We need to remember that.

We don’t want to pray for harm to come to others, or for pain to be inflicted. We don’t speak of retribution, as if it were something to be admired. Instead, we pray for the healing of injuries, or of injured feelings; and we pray for neighbor to love neighbor. For those who are ill, we pray for an end to their pain and sickness, and the restoration of health. We pray for the end of war; we pray for harmony among all nations. And when someone has reached the end of their race; we pray for their soul, that they may be given a place in God’s Holy Kingdom.

When people travel, we pray for a safe journey for them. When people mourn, we pray for comfort and an end to the pain that torments them. We pray for an end to the calamities that torture people, an end to the heartaches, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

 We don’t pray for a chance to “get even” as someone recently said, no matter how angry we are, because God told us that vengeance is not the property of his people. “Vengeance is mine!” says the Lord in the Book of Romans.  Vengeance belongs to God and God alone. It’s not a thing for Christians to even consider.

We even pray for sinners. There are many evil people in the world, and there always has been. So, although we hate the sin, we try to love the sinner and pray for his redemption. Christ sought to bring the wicked back to the paths of the Lord. As Christians, we must try to do the same. It is often difficult.

The Middle East is a long distance away and the problems there are many and seem very difficult to solve. As Christians, we can pray for the people involved. We can pray for the Muslims, we can pray for the Jews, we can pray for the Christians and pray for the atheists as well. We can pray for everyone who has been swept up in its frightening path. We can even pray for the haters, that they may finally learn to stop hating.

We Must Pray that they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.

 We must Pray that Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and that they shall not learn war anymore.

 And if we can do that, someday it will come.