If Fear is a Prayer, Perhaps God Has Already Answered


Last week I wrote about fear as a prayer for help when we feel in over our heads. Since then, I’ve been thinking more about the role fear plays in the church. Rather than fight it or ask people to stop being afraid, I propose we accept it as our state of mind right now, as our fervent prayer to God, and consider for a moment where this might lead us.

First, I remember that the Wisdom Literature in the Bible (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon) speak clearly of the deepest ground that all of us in the church share. It is the fear of God required of us all. Proverbs declares in the first chapter, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (1:7).” This took me a long time to understand, but I have come to accept that we are all in over our heads when we are in the presence of God.

Job teaches this truth when, after his long defense of his righteousness, he finds himself before God and concludes, “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).” Job knows he is in over his head in the presence of God. For all of us in the church, fear of God is our common ground. We all need help in facing God.

So what does the fear of God mean when we have all been taught to see Christ in the eyes of all we meet? Does it mean we should fear one another? No. I believe it means that we must cultivate the discipline of humility and compassion — the product of our fear of God — toward each person we encounter. And our plea for help will be answered by God’s gift of the other’s helping hand, in their compassion for us.

Second, I am reminded of these words from II Timothy 1:7 in the King James Version: “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Not only do we share the fear of God, which teaches us humility and repentance; we also share God’s pure gift of energy, intelligence, imagination and love. Our fears are real and fervent prayers for help. At the same time, God has not left us helpless or powerless, having given us the power to show love and compassion to one another.

You may know the story of the man on his roof in the midst of a flood who prays to God for help. A rowboat comes by and offers to rescue him, but he declines the help, saying, “No, God is going to save me.” Then a helicopter flies over and they offer help but he declines, saying, “No God will rescue me.” Finally he drowns, goes to heaven and comes before God, where he asks, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God replies, “You know, I sent a rowboat and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

So now this is what I see: wherever we stand on the place of GLBT people in the church, our fears are a plea for help, and that can be our common ground. And it may well be that God’s response to our fears is to give us each to the other. Perhaps we can all agree: that is exactly the kind of thing God in Christ would do.


Reverend Janet

2 Responses
  • Mike F. on September 30, 2009

    This is a very thoughtful statement. It would seem to me that if what you are saying is true…God’s answer to our fear is the gift of each other, then we are mostly asleep at the wheel. We do not behave very often as if the “other” is a gift to us. Too often we are suspicious, closed, judging and ungrateful. It seems to me that leaves plenty for us to work on in ourselves. For my part I will have to examine the fear that I hold and realize that I cannot blame others for their fears when I am different only in what I fear.

  • Janet Edwards on September 30, 2009

    Dear Mike F.

    Amen to most of what you say here!

    Where you make me think, Mike, is in saying that you cannot blame others when you are different only in what you fear. I have come to see that we all basically fear the same thing and that is being in a position where we need help and we are not sure we will get it. This has helped me move in the same direction you are taking which is greater compassion for those who disagree with me. I am afraid because I want help; the other is afraid because he or she wants help. Maybe I should offer help.

    My one other thought is this: for some time now I have felt frustrated because those who differ with me are so reluctant to talk with me. You remind me that is their business. My business is to be as attentive as I can to how the other is a gift to me. That’s a much better use of my time than dwelling on what the other person should or should not do.

    Deepest thanks for your helpful thoughts. Peace, Janet

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