The Friday before last it became clear to me that our nine-month old son had an infection that warranted a trip to the doctor. Saturday we brought him in and he was given antibiotics with the instructions to bring him back if he had not improved in forty-eight hours. It got worse Sunday and Monday we got him back in. The doctor sent us to the ER at Children’s.
The day before in the very hospital a fourteen-year old boy whose grandmother attends our church had died of a similar infection. People around the world had been praying for this young man. Needless to say, I was worried. You do not always get what you want in prayer. I know that all too well.
My wife and I usually end our day by praying together with our son. We end with the Lord’s Prayer. Praying together gives me a great sense of togetherness. Recently I attended a church led by a friend of mine and he introduced the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “Now let us join together by praying our family prayer, ‘Our Father who are in heaven….'” It made me feel very welcome. This night, though, I felt so alone as I walked into our house after a scary day of watching our son being poked and prodded. My wife stayed with him at the hospital.
Many of my Facebook friends have put out calls for prayer and I have prayed, but I had never been on the other side of the table. I updated my Facebook status with a request to pray for my family. I needed it. We needed it.
Even before the responses began to vibrate on my phone, I felt like warm water was being poured over my head. I felt my family being lifted up. With each response I felt assurance and love and power from beyond. Church members prayed, family members prayed, high school classmates, former coworkers, and fellow pastors prayed. The request was forwarded to churches all over the area. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I felt surrounded by family. Family prayer got a lot bigger that night.
The next morning all was well. A sense of relief poured through me. Our son would go home later that day, Tuesday, with a foul-tasting oral antibiotic. He hates it. I do not blame him, it tastes like concentrated bile.
On Wednesday we took him back to daycare and I went after lunch and administered the dreaded medication. Afterward I swung by the house to walk the dog. I checked Facebook and saw a report that white smoke had emitted from the conclave of cardinals in the Vatican City. I flipped on the TV and began to watch history unfold.
For whatever reason I had a great sense of expectation, like anything could happen. The traditional announcement was made introducing the new Pope, but then tradition stepped aside for something new: a Latino, a Jesuit, a Francis. He spoke almost casually to the throng, but with great humility.
Then a remarkable thing happened. The Pope asked the crowd, which beyond those present must have been tens of millions if not hundreds of millions watching worldwide, to pray for him before he gave the traditional prayer for the Church. He bowed his head before the people. The most powerful silence came over the crowd and I felt like I was there. I prayed, we prayed for this man who had just been given the most awesome responsibility of any human being alive. He needed it. We needed it.
The Church poured out prayer upon him and I felt as if we were all lifted into the highest heavens together with Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and all the saints in heaven, including a fourteen-year old boy who had just arrived. My family prayer got a LOT bigger that moment.
Then Papa Francisco (Pope Francis) lifted his head and led us in our family prayer, “Our Father…”