The Essential Prayer for Now and All Time

By Rev. Steve Kindle

If the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, that will be enough.
Meister Eckhart, Theologian, Mystic

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Luke 17:11-17

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:18
(This verse should not be understood to mean that the circumstances are the will of God. Rather, that it is God’s will that we give thanks in all circumstances. After all, Ecclesiastes says that “time and chance happen to all people.”)

Isn’t it interesting that humans must be taught to be thankful? We teach our children, “What do you say to that nice lady for the cookie?” And the child responds with, “Thank you.” The presumption being that no “Thank you” would be forthcoming without the prompting. I suspect that we Americans, among the most well-to-do people on earth, take our blessings too much for granted. It’s almost as though we are especially deserving.

It’s tempting to make up excuses for the nine lepers who continued on their way without offering thankfulness for their cure. Indeed, we make excuses for ourselves, all the time. Imagine how these outcasts must have felt upon realizing they were free of their dreadful disease. The first place they would want to go would be to their loved ones. Maybe they would thank Jesus later. But, is there any excuse at all?

One might also wonder, for what would these lepers be thankful as lepers? How would Paul’s advice serve them? We could ask this of those who have lost loved ones, or their jobs, or their health in this COVID-19 pandemic. For what could we possibly be thankful?

For those about to die: That I have been permitted to live at all.
For those who lost their loved ones: That I have had their love and presence with me for a time.
For those who lost their livelihood: That my community is helping me get on my feet again.

These are not Pollyannaish sentiments. They reflect realities that we too often take for granted. Thankfulness, whether for a cookie or a life, is always a realization that all good things come from God regardless who the messengers are, and what regrettable things may accompany them. We are not in a good place now, and we may be there for some time. We have a choice before us: Will we rue our circumstances, or will we remain thankful for all the good that surrounds us?

I am thankful for Zoom, for a pastor and spouse who enrich our worship and watch over us, for a congregation who enriches my life, for a wife and family, and friends who love me and forgive me for my failures, for the breath I am now taking and the one to come, for the means to produce this article, that I don’t have leprosy (coronavirus), and most of all, for a God who accompanies me through life, come what may. God—thank you!

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