Wasn’t there but it takes no imagination that he actually said it. Bill Coffin, I believe when he was Senior Minister at Riverside Church in New York City, met with a group of Southern Baptist preachers. To say they had close to nothing in common theologically—and probably politically—would be classic understatement. Coffin rose to leave and one of the SB group said something to this effect, “Dr. Coffin? We’ll be praying for you.” With a smile and typical candor Coffin responded, “In this instance is there something different from your prayer list and your garbage-dump list?”
But this is not comedy hour with Bill Coffin. Deeper. Much deeper. It’s about the place and purpose of prayer. For when considered in that manner, both place and purpose have importance. When someone says they’re praying for me it says I’m important and what’s happening to me and what might happen are of value to the person offering the prayer. That’s a good place to be. When we pray, what is more, it declares our connectedness with God. A wonderful purpose realized…the bonding with that person and with God.
Yesterday I read a paragraph from Tom Ehrich that nailed [not an ill chosen verb] what I struggle with when it comes to prayer. Bluntly it recognizes that prayer can be too limited. From Ehrich:
“Finally, people of faith need to get beyond passivity. The ‘thoughts and prayers’ we so eloquently offer in tragic times must lead us somewhere. God counts on us to take action. In a democracy, I hope it leads us to make better decisions in whom we elect to public office and in what laws we implement to govern our common life. That’s my view. You might have a different view of what action is needed. But simply calling for prayers after one more mass shooting just kicks the can down the road, and not in God’s direction.”
That is most helpful. For instance. We pray, more than daily—sometimes it’s hourly—for Brian. The struggle at the age of 33 with brain cancer, only to learn a new tumor has started—in the brain but not organically related—is well beyond daunting. We pray. And pray. But we also do what we can…more than good ideas—to let Brian know he matters. And. No less important, to share our conviction—more than belief—he will never be a stranger to God. And if helpful to help with transportation. Plus on the personal level, to do the best I can to answer questions he and his family may have about faith and prayer and God and life and death…and how all that can be better dealt with. Not that what is shared is better…no! Far from it. But, it’s up to me…and all of us connected to Brian…to let him know we’ll do anything we can for him.
To that end, it may seem somewhat trivial that knowing that Brian loves cheesecake. But it is not. Diane, in her first attempt to make same, made a cheesecake for Brian as our family gathered around the Thanksgiving table. Cheesecake? Absolutely. Much, much better than kicking the can.