“In response to our prayer (for God’s favor), God shakes us out of our blind contentment, replacing our well-trod excuses with sacred rage– at our self-loathing and at lost time.”- Brian Jones
“God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,/ And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,/ A gauntlet with a gift in’t.”- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (1857)
Brian Jones continues Chapter 3 of Finding Favor as he discusses the term acedia. Ancient Christian monks coined this term as a reference to spiritual lethargy and sloth. Acedia combines the Greek vowel a (meaning “no”) with the Greek word kedos (meaning “to care”). Thus, acedia literally means “I don’t care anymore.”
Next, Pastor Jones applies this to the story of Nehemiah. While in exile, Nehemiah rose to become cupbearer to the King of Persia. Yet, Nehemiah failed to leave twelve years earlier with Ezra and his band of pioneers. When Nehemiah did return, the Israelites rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem in just fifty-two days.
Hence, Brian posits, Nehemiah waited because he was stuck. Although Nehemiah had a front row seat to what was going on in Jerusalem, he failed to act. At some point in the process, though, he began praying for God’s favor. In response, God sent Nehemiah’s brother Hanani. Often, Brian adds, we don’t know what we’ll get when we pray for God’s favor. But for thirteen years, Nehemiah remained numb to:
- his people’s plight
- the role he could play
- his mission in life
- his life’s work
However, Pastor Jones underscores, we can’t fault Nehemiah. For we’ve been there to. And at some time in the future, we’ll go there again. Still, as fourteenth century German mystic Meister Eckhart observed, “We rarely find people who achieve great things without first going astray.”
Today’s question: What aspect of your life brings on sacred rage? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Praying for God’s favor – a dangerous thing”