As Senator McCain and Governor Palin are to be nominated at the Republican convention (and I assume they still will be), the eyes of the nation are on a storm–not a political storm but a real one. As of this writing, Hurricane Gustav is just beginning to hurl itself against the already battered and worn Gulf Coast, threatening the rebuilding efforts that have gone on now for three years since Katrina.
And so we all pause to pray. We pray for God’s protection for the courageous first responders who remain after 1.9 million people were heroically evacuated. And we pray for the over 10,000 souls who did not go and remain in New Orleans, plus those scattered along the Mississippi coast. We pray for those dislodged from their homes. And we pray for our nation.
Storms–real one, metaphoric ones, personal ones, national ones–drive us to prayer and to God like nothing else. But thus is has always been. We remember that storms were common to the disciples of Jesus as we read:
“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep” (
“And they went and woke him, saying, Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (
And as Christ calmed the storm on that day, so St. Paul, when he was being taken by government officials to Rome, encountered a storm:
“And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along” (
But an angel visited Paul and he was divinely warned that they must run aground. And thus Paul would tell the seamen:
“Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved’” (
Salvation for the frightened sailor-disciples was in the ship beside them, albeit sleeping in the storm. One learns that God is there. His power is available even in the times when He seems asleep. He is not. He is there. But for us the best place to be is beside Him in prayer. We must remember, as Paul instructed the sailors of his vessel, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”
This is a time for ministers of the gospel to turn the hearts of their people to God. It is a time for us to be in the ship. So we look not to FEMA or to the National Guard alone. These are gifts of God for the common good of man and we thank God for them and thank those who so labor for the good of mankind. But we must seek Jesus in this storm. And we must say to the nation,
“There is no salvation outside of the ship where Christ is.”
I have been reading about the orders of worship that were written for the Book of Common Prayer in days of old. I found one that seems so appropriate for this day. And I offer this as a reading for all of us who are moved to prayer for the storm of this day.
This prayer comes to us as our aid this day from the good old Book of Common Prayer, 1789 and is a prayer service for storms at sea. I can only imagine wise old sea captains, who have seen such storms and have known the power of God in the storm, calling “all hands on deck.” He orders them to remove their hats, to bow their heads, and he calls on the chaplain of the ship to pray. And this is what he would have prayed; this is what we might pray:
THOU O Lord, who stillest the raging of the sea, hear; hear us, and save us, that we perish not. O blessed Saviour, who didst save thy disciples ready to perish in a storm, hear us, and save us, we beseech thee. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us. O Lord, hear us.
O Christ, hear us. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us, save us now and evermore. Amen. OUR Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil. Amen. When there shall be imminent danger, as many as can be spared from necessary service in the ship shall be called together, and make an humble confession of their sin to God: In which, every one ought seriously to reflect upon those particular sins of which his conscience shalt accuse him; saying as followeth, The Confession. ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we from time to time most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*added for 1892 BCP.
Then shall the Priest,* if there be any in the ship, say,
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O that the voice of Jesus Christ be heard, through the pulpits and prayer meetings of our land in the next 24 hours, as our ministers lead our people to Christ, calming the storms of our souls.
Whate’er my God ordains is right: He is my Friend and Father; He suffers naught to do me harm, Though many storms may gather, Now I may know both joy and woe, Some day I shall see clearly That He hath loved me dearly.
One last thing: the presumed Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party has experienced storms. She and her husband welcomed their fifth child into the world amidst the ominous warnings of a Down Syndrome child. And in the storm they prayed. And God answered their prayer in giving them the strength and courage and faith in Christ to take that child into their arms and declare that blessings sometimes come in wondrously different ways. She said:
“We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives” (Steven Ertelt, “Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Gives Birth to Down Baby Despite Abortion Pressure,” April 22, 2008, LifeNews.com).
As politics and storms collide, we are truly reminded that “storms blow in that our prayers may go up.”
Copyright © 2008 Michael A. Milton