By Pastor Jerry Donovan
A bidding prayer during worship is when people are given the opportunity to share a prayer concern asking for the community to pray for that concern. The people end their prayer with, “Lord, in your mercy,” and the leader responds, “Hear our prayer.” It is important to note that the response is not “hear our prayers” but “hear our prayer.” This is about joining prayers together to become one. The body prays together. “Hear our (community) prayer.”
It’s a small point, I know, but It is significant because it reminds us that we are in this together. Though each of us may have our own personal concerns, worship is about binding together. Worship is a unifying moment in our divided lives. “Hear our prayer” is one way of signaling that unity and gives us a sense that we are in this together.
The writer of Psalm 130 makes a journey from intense personal pain to shared hope. “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.” Our human experience is that when we are down, we are alone. The suffering of the moment is worsened by the loneliness of our souls. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”. Nobody understands what I’m going through. Nobody has been where I am right now. Never mind that, if I reflect factually, I would have to admit that others have suffered much worse experiences than mine. But my pain is my pain! It becomes my world, which is why people often react strongly when we say things like, “I know how you feel.” We are certain that nobody knows how we feel.
A beloved Spiritual goes: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Nobody knows my sorrow / Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen Glory hallelujah.” Where does the hallelujah come from? It comes from the faith that says even though my life experience is that nobody knows, my faith experience is that Someone knows. God knows. Jesus knows. Because of that confidence, I can wait and watch.
It is this willingness to wait that brings the psalmist out of the depths and into the community of faith. Watch with me is the call, the invitation. Watch for the redemption of the Lord. Watch for the hearing of God. O Lord, hear our prayer. What are we asking for when we ask the Lord to hear our prayer? The psalmist doesn’t ask for anything but God’s hearing. We don’t ask anything but, “Lord, hear our prayer.” Is that hearing healing? Is hearing redeeming? Is hearing resolving? Sometimes it is. We all have certain outcomes that we want from our prayers: healing for loved ones, lives turned around, conflict resolved, jobs found, fires put out, and destroyed communities rebuilt; our outcomes are as varied as the situations for which we pray. But in it all, we pray for hearing. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / nobody knows my sorrow / nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Glory hallelujah.” We want to get to the hallelujah. We want to know the glory, to know that God is hearing and that God is with us.
It is God’s presence, not power, that we seek most of all. It is someone who hears, someone who knows, who makes all the difference in the world. As we end our season of Lent and prepare ourselves for the Passion, for the death and Resurrection of our Lord, we are all like the man on the cross beside Jesus who simply said, “Remember me.”