Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NRSV)
The other day my daughter and I witnessed a car accident. OK, she witnessed it. I was looking at my phone. We were waiting outside a pizza place for our order, and I heard from the backseat, “Daddy, what happened?”
I looked up and saw a van sticking halfway out of a bush 20 yards from our car. People were already rushing over to help. The driver was able to roll down the window and seemed to be communicating.
The person’s partner came out from the pizza kitchen. Paramedics were on the scene in minutes. My wife returned with our dinner. Everything seemed basically resolved.
But not for my daughter. She was getting more and more upset. Why did that person crash? Would they be OK? Why hadn’t she gotten to call “9-9-1?”
“We could say a prayer,” I suggested.
And for the first time, she took me up on it. I prayed and hoped this might set a new precedent. But when I finished, there were loud protests from the backseat.
“No, not amen!” she insisted.
“First we pray. Then they go in the ambulance. Then the doctors take care of them. Then they go home. Then amen.”
And I tried to explain about how “amen” just means something like “may it be so.” How it doesn’t mean everything is fixed. It just means we’re leaving it with God.
She seemed unconvinced.
And this morning I’m wondering if I’ve been ending all my prayers prematurely. If this isn’t what it means to pray without ceasing. To hold the line. To mark the transaction as “pending.” To refuse to close the case until everyone can say “amen.”
O God, we are waiting…
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.