Prayers from the Island Breath of God

Breath of God

Prayer about the Holy Spirit

Dear Heavenly Father, as a child I was afraid of suffocating. My older sister would come up behind me, covering my nose and mouth with her hands, watching me squirm and squeal. I was a reluctant swimmer, cautious about putting my head under water, always fearful I’d drown. Even now, I get panicky when I have a head cold, lying awake, monitoring my breathing.

What about those suffering from COVID-19 and the symptoms they may experience?. Problems with breathing, loss of oxygen in their blood, and the need for supplementary oxygen. Some even undergo intubation so a ventilator can breathe for them. How terrifying it must be to lose the very breath of life!

Lord, You have given us a ventilator that infuses us with Your breath–the Holy Spirit. This is Your true presence, filling us with Your purpose and love. In Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was a rush of wind, inflating the souls of the disciples, giving them the gifts of language to speak Christ’s message. I crave that same spiritual fulfillment so I too can speak more effectively of Your love. Now, more than ever, I am gasping for Your presence—fearful, weak, alone.

I recognize , Lord, there are those suffering from a spiritual virus. They may choose to wear symbolic masks of doubt and rejection, closing themselves to Your life-affirming Spirit. Some experience spiritual hypo-ventilation, the failure to breathe in the breath of God. Reluctant to accept the gift of God’s inspiration, choosing to live lives apart from God, they never appreciate Your gifts of love and hope, Your promise of salvation.

During these crucial times, Lord, we need Your Holy Spirit more than ever. Just as virus patients may require supplementary assistance in breathing, we too need the support and the vitality Your breath provides. Because we can’t gather to reinforce one another’s faith, it is more important than ever we seek Your supply of the Holy Spirit. Studying the Bible, especially verses like the 23rd Psalm, provide comfort, linking us with the Holy Spirit. Connecting with one another by whatever means possible provides the spiritual ‘oxygen’ our souls require. And most of all, prayer is the ‘ventilator’ of spiritual connection. When we pray, deeply and honestly, we can find an infusion of Your spirit, giving us the strength and courage to carry on, no matter how overwhelmed we may feel.

This is the time to inhale deeply, to fill ourselves with Your blessed Spirit.

I remember the lines of one of my favorite hymns:

“Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew

that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”

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He Has RisenHe Has Risen

 Prayer for Easter

      Dear Lord, every Easter card shows flowers blooming, bright sunshine, and smiling disciples. But it wasn’t that way, was it, Lord. It was chilly and dark when the women went to the tomb. In their scarves they carried gums and spices to undo the abuse and torture your body had suffered two days earlier. So much fear! The boulder blocking the tomb, the soldiers guarding it, the Roman soldiers patrolling and then, to add to the fear, an earthquake.

      They whispered to one another as they walked. Hopeless. Disappointed. The loss of everything they believed. Jesus wasn’t powerful as He seemed. He could heal and restore and feed and make people believe—but it all came down to this—a broken body in a borrowed tomb. Here was the hard truth; Jesus was a mortal man like every other man. Shivering in the darkness, bent over as they hurried, eager to have this business finished, to show their respect for a dear friend who had taught them so much.

      It’s ironic, Lord, isn’t it, that none of the followers coming to the burial site in small, separate groups, expected an empty tomb. Though Jesus had told them repeatedly, at least nine times, that he would rise from the dead, they didn’t believe him. In fact the only ones who heard Jesus’ message were the Jewish rulers. The high priests and Pharisees warned Pilate Jesus spoke of rising from the dead. They heard the message, though his followers didn’t. To prevent their stealing the body, Pilate posted guards.

      When they reached the tomb in separate groups, there was no sudden epiphany, no delirious shout of joy over what had taken place. No. Fear, confusion, disbelief overwhelmed the followers as they scuttled back and forth, reluctant to believe the angel’s message. Only John announced his belief as did Mary Magdalene after Jesus spoke her name. It took hours, days, weeks in some cases, before skeptic followers could believe in the living Jesus. Even those who saw Jesus in person were reluctant to believe!

      And what of us, Lord, what of our disbelief? All the Easters since that first morning and we continue to wonder, still question if it’s real. Like those followers we grope in the chilly darkness, doubting the value of life, despairing of purpose. We go to wrap the dead, not celebrate the living. The search is the same, Lord, a hunt for meaning. Strangely enough it is only an empty tomb that contains all we need to know. In that emptiness lies fullness and joy—promises kept and new life given.

      Easter isn’t a one-time event; it is a repeated search whenever we forget the promise or reject its premise. Each time we face that empty tomb, we find a living Lord who is among us, loving us, forgiving us. Dwelling with us until the end of time. Never has empty space held so much. On this Easter morning may each of us find our way to an empty tomb regardless of the pain or doubt that drives our search. With courage we look inside rediscovering the life that lies beyond. “He is risen!” So will we.

Sandra Ratliff

The One Presence We NeedThe One Presence We Need

Dear Heavenly Father, these are desperate times. When crises happen, we find solace and comfort in the presence of others—they hug and hold us, they remind us of their love and caring, they provide for us a tangible symbol of your presence. But now, that source of comfort has been denied. Not only is touch forbidden, but we’re not even able to find comfort in the mere presence of others.

The act of quarantine is nothing new; treatment of diseases through isolation was prevalent in Biblical times. Various diseases forced victims into a life apart from others: for instance leprosy, syphilis, and smallpox. Though no one else would touch these people, Jesus touched them. He went to them, sought them out, and healed them with his touch.

And now we too find ourselves separate, apart from one another. Forced to live lives with as little human contact as possible, we feel apart, drifting. So reliant on others are we that our fingers type out text messages and emails or dial phone numbers, all in an attempt to connect. It seems almost beyond belief that something as microscopic as this virus can have such an impact on the planet—that it can render impossible the very vaccination we seek—the touch of others.

What will we do with our time? Television is an endless repetition of the virus damage; after watching for a short time the number of people infected, the lives lost, the shredding of our stock system and governmental breakdown, we feel overwhelmed. Life is hopeless—to leave our doors, to touch others, to take the sacrament—all these are beyond our reach.

Where is our God in all of this turmoil? Why isn’t he here protecting his own? Making our lives easier? Why would He permit something as devastating as this to take place?

When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, he asked repeatedly for his disciples to watch with him, to give him the comfort of their presence, to make him feel connected, not alone. But the text makes it quite clear; no matter how often or with such urgency Jesus asked for their nearness—they fell asleep. They failed him. Why is this scene so explicit? Because Jesus needed to face God alone—to confront him and ask for relief from what lay ahead, to ask his Father if he could be spared. But what would take place was in God’s hands, not the hands of Jesus. When given that realization, Jesus found peace. He rose from his prayer and began the sequence of events that would lead directly, in less than 24 hours, to his crucifixion.

These hours ahead of us, void of most human contact, force us into this same conversation. We are at the will of God, and he has given us the time and the opportunity to be in dialogue with him. We pray together as a congregation, but now is the time for personal prayer. Time to speak with God as Jesus did in the Garden, to ask for our safety and the safety of those we love, but to do so with the awareness of God’s power and presence. He promised his Son that he would bring ultimate good out of loss.

And we see this today—people sharing, medical staff putting their lives on hold in the interests of others, those who provide medications and gas and food and public safety—those who risk their lives so we may continue our lives with as little interference as possible. We are reminded of the goodness humans can draw upon in an emergency.

God has not died of the corona virus. He is not in quarantine. He is alive and well, waiting for us to draw closer, to read our Bibles for comfort and peace, to speak with him in personal honesty and intensity. Forget the rote prayers we can speak by heart, this is the opportunity for stark and revealing prayers that allow us to find him in a new way, to discover we can speak with God openly and without fear. “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of time.” This is not the end of time, but this is a time when God is with us. Open your heart and pray—now is the time to that find his presence is the only presence we need.

We’re Not an IslandWe’re Not an Island

When I drive over the bridge to the mainland, I am reminded that island life makes it easy to see ourselves as separate, remote from the “mainland of humanity”.  Sometimes it’s tempting to make the bridge an ideological divide and not a way of joining land to land.  Forgive me my arrogance in thinking I can leave the world’s problems behind me, that I can escape to an island.  We are all connected, if not by bridges, then by shared needs and demands.  You have insisted that we love one another, no matter how disconnected we may seem.  Please, Lord, help me stay connected with others so that I am never disconnected from you.  I pray that you direct me not to hide behind bridges, but to maintain and reinforce them with the girders of your love.