and it will be given you;
and you will find;
and the door will be opened for you.
and for everyone
the door will be opened.”
-Matthew 7: 7-8
Since my return from our recent experience on Encuentro 2009, I’ve had a lot of well-meaning and concerned people ask me, “Did you catch anything there in Mexico?”
They mean (in kindness) to inquire if I got sick, whether or not I picked up any kind of flu bug or illness while I was there.
But when people have asked me that question, “Did you catch anything in Mexico?,”
I’ve told them,
“Yes. . . I caught faith.”
My prayer life has been of a different order and magnitude since I returned from Mexico. You see, while in Mexico we visited the remote rural indigenous village of Huitzapula. Huitzapula is a place where most of the people live simply, off the land. There are few of the resources we take for granted: running water, good sanitation, electrical appliances. There is practically no medical care and few visits from any doctor.
What there is an abundance of in Huitzapula, is faith. In a place where few man-made resources are available, when all other help and comforts flee, the people must live out of a truly dependent, trusting faith in God alone.
What this looks like is: prayer. The Christians of Huitzapula pray. Prayer for them is not just a few mumbled words at a meal, not a few pious sounding phrases pulled out of the air, not just an insurance policy tacked onto the end our own best efforts. Prayer is a way of life. Prayer is daily bread. Prayer is their moment to moment breath. The people live by the grace of asking God.
The people of Huitzapula, even amid the mysteries of un- or not-yet-answered prayers that we are all familiar with, dare to take Jesus at his word: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
As part of our encounter in Huitzapula, our group went from house to house with Pastor Manuel visiting the sick. I kept thinking to myself, “I wish we could do something to help. I wish we had a doctor. I wish we had medicine. I wish we could be of some service.”
But we had helped, of course. We had come to visit, we had offered the balm of presence and Christian fellowship. We had come and seen and felt. And there was something else, something very powerful that we could always do, something the people desired more than anything else: we could pray for them.
Pray for them we did: in Spanish, in English, in the indigenous language of Paneco. Prayer is the universal language of faith: the gift of God shared by rich and poor, both of whom need it just as much as the either.
I don’t know how I can so often convince myself that my life and ministry are dependent first upon my hard work, my skill in planning, my intelligence or best efforts. I tend to live as if I can open the door of life or ministry by my strength, or just by barging into it, the way you open an automatic door. As a result, my life too often looks like the Far-Side Cartoon where the student from the School for the Gifted is pushing unsuccessfully with all of his might on a door that reads “Pull.”
But what if the world has been so ordered that everything operates according to the law of the request, that the most important thing we can ever do in any endeavor is simply to “Ask”?
What if, on the door to the good, on the door to ministry, on the door to reality, on the door to the universe, there is a simple sign that says, “Knock” ?
One of Wendell Berry’s characters, Jayber Crow, once speculated, “How would we know if all the good that has ever come into the world has come into it through prayer?”
I returned from Mexico with a longer prayer list. I’ve been asking more, seeking more. I’ve been knocking before entering more.
And I’ve been seeing more and more “coincidences” happen.
It’s hard to say whether this will prove to be a short-lived burst of spirituality or whether something more lasting has happened in me. No doubt I’ll need further reminding.
But I hope I’m never cured of what I caught in Mexico. I hope this illness lasts.