By Canon Francis Omondi
I become a frequent guest at Gethsemane. Issues concerning our nation drew me to this garden of prayer. They weighed heavy on my heart, the way a nightmare would trouble a waking mind. If only I could mangle and model the country, like children do plasticine or mud to make creatures they name animals, in God’s image.
I prayed in agony, in the Gethsemane way. Prayers that would make you sweat blood, like what happened to Jesus. But in all my times there, no droplets appeared on my brow, even though l kept looking.
Yes, I agonised. Only for a response similar to Jesus’ that night, in a resounding same sequence. First, silence. Then break the haunting silence with a solemn whisper: “may thy will be done”.
So, I would dram from “this cup” of God’s will.
Praying at Gethsemane leaves one with more questions than one had raised before God. Gritty questions. The kind that would shove you to the “How long?” streets where the ancient prophets still ask.
It’s a lonely street. The company of Cranmer offers little help, for we are grappling with issues that never found entry in the Book of Common Prayer. So, I may be blessed to be in company of intercessors. But one will have to watch out, their tendency to sleep in the garden would remind you that it is your burden. And it is best borne alone, as the Negroes long discovered and sang: “it’s me, it’s me, oh Lord; Standing in the need of prayer …”
I would move and kneel, and at times, lie flat in one section of the garden. There I would demand, no.., I would plead in a gentle voice, spewing questions after another:
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? “
The silence in heaven would be as impenetrable as a steel fence. I would to another spot. A rock of a corner not good for kneeling. Seated I would appear to change words but, in my mind, stick to the script.
“Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.”
The perpetrators of these evils are bonding with the righteous. They not only exchange business cards, but money as well. The prayers they make are not meant for your ears. No, they make sure the press gets us listening, and we can pray with them from a distance.
“Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” I don’t mean the courts are not busy, and lawyers are not waxing eloquence… but we are not sure anymore that we are using the same law. It is complicated. “The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”
On this day, God spoke. His words were a vision, as clear as it would appear on a TV screen.
“For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” God said.
I listened with the fear of what God might do. A fear mingled with the joy that God has finally spoken. One is tempted to ask questions, but how do you interrupt? His ways are higher… for “… the just shall live by faith” as he promised.
The details of God’s action plan troubled me. He can’t be sending the COVID -19 pandemic to decimate people of the world. This cannot be his work. What of the poor? Or the church? Why would the innocent little children also suffer with the evil?
While I questioned, the plague was already sweeping the world like a hungry eagle swooping for a prey. There is no need to “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald[b] may run with it.”
A good number of our MPs are infected, so it seems. Like fierce evening wolves, it is sending to the grave thousands in countries proud of their age old progress.
Could it be how God wants the earth “… be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea”.
“O Lord, …in wrath, remember mercy!” I have never seen nationwide intercessions like in the last few months. In statehouses, on the streets, in hospitals and homes, but seldom in churches for they have suspended gatherings.
At the garden Jesus prayed, “… not my will, but yours be done.” And there was silence. I have learnt a fresh way of praying. Silence. “The Lord is in his holy temple let the earth keep silence before him.”
Being in God’s presence may we wait and listen in silence.
Canon Francis Omondi is a priest in the Anglican Church of Kenya.