Houston holds a special place in my heart. I was born in a southwestern suburb of the city – Friendswood – as were my two brothers. For me, Houston is my first home. And so my heart aches for the suffering and devastation I’ve seen and heard the past several days. As we approach the one year anniversary of Hurricane Matthew and its damage within our state, we are acutely aware of the destruction and displacement that water and wind creates.
As flood waters are slowly beginning to recede in some places, and are rising in others, and as the nation begins to receive initial reports of the widespread damage, I long to respond. The words of my friend Bethany Hoang, the Director of the Institute for Biblical Justice within the International Justice Mission (IJM), come to mind as I say – to myself and others – what can I do, besides pray? In her work with IJM, she shares how many times friends ask her this question in response to a word shared regarding human trafficking. “There is quite a lot you can do. But then again, there is absolutely nothing you can do without prayer.”
In The Justice Calling, Hoang, and co-author Kristen Deede Johnson, implore the reader to claim the promise that “God has given us the gift of prayer so that we can be drawn further into life with him, receiving power, and knowing God’s love, grace, justice, and power at work in the world.”
There are ways we can tangibly respond. And let us do so with our hearts rooted in the heart of God, that we may be in step with the Spirit and attuned to the specific ways we are gifted and equipped for service.
“Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up…Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-14a, 16 NRSV
For those facing the reality of total and complete loss, months and years of working toward recovery, and maintaining hope in the midst, we pray:
Almighty God, we continue to place our hope and trust in you, knowing that you are faithful to hear us when we call. We trust you are in the midst and at work in ways we can only imagine; and yet, our souls long to do more than watch and wait. We are thankful that you offer us the gift of partnering with you as the hands and feet of Christ.
We lift to you today the men, women, children, pets, homes and businesses, and all of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. As several feet of water remain over much of the land and some remain trapped in homes, while first responders place themselves in harm’s way, while civic leaders desire to make sense of the immediate crisis and offer words of hope, we struggle to find the words to pray as we ought.
As our own neighbors continue to recover from Hurricane Matthew, we pray fervently for those at the brink of a new recovery mission. We lift up the Texas Annual Conference, Bishop Scott J. Jones, and all who minister in the midst. We pray that you would use us – our families, our churches, and our resources – to offer assistance as best we can. Guide our steps and sustain our spirits that we may enter into lasting relationship with all in need.
For those in shelters, hospitals, homeless, and in despair, we ask you to send your Spirit upon all, that the peace of Christ would rule in all our hearts. A peace that passes all understanding and that knits us together as one body. Daily stir within us a desire to keep the entire region in our hearts and minds as we pray that You would continue to intercede and do what only you can do. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Grace and peace to you in these days and the days to come,