It's a scary world out there, with anxiety-producing headlines and challenges facing us in our personal lives. This week's clergy discuss the power of prayer to offer comfort and hope during stressful times.
Pastor Marlon Rodriguez, Ebenezer Christian Church, Bay Shore:
In our society today there's a lot to be afraid of. We are fearful for our children growing up in this world, we are fearful about our finances, we are fearful about our health. However, God doesn't want us to be owned by fear. He doesn't want us walking in fear. According to psychologists, fear is an emotion induced by a threat, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running, hiding or freezing. By praying, you can reverse some of those emotions that are putting fear in you. As evangelicals we pray in the name above all names, Jesus Christ. When we are praying, we are trusting ourselves and we are connecting to God. When we are praying, God works on the inside of us. By praying you are telling yourself (in other words, your brain) that God is bigger than whatever is threatening you. The Bible teaches us in Romans 8:31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Furthermore, the Bible says, "I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me." (Psalms 23:4) Once you pray and understand that God is greater than anything threatening you, you have conquered fear and fear no longer owns you.
Rabbi Mendy Goldberg, Lubavitch of the East End, Coram:
To fear the world is to deny the oneness of its creator. Fear and anxiety stem from the ego allowing you to think that you are in control, and from not understanding that there is a superior being that holds the reins, and all that happens is by divine providence. Fear comes from a belief that you are lonely, and who knows what will become of you. Take your greatest fear. It's probably about something materialistic, transient and out of your domain of power. Not that it's not important, but you can't control it, so you fear it. You fear its destiny. You fear for your health, your job, your children. On the other hand, prayer is absolute submission to the oneness of the creator. Prayer in the Hebrew/Aramaic vernacular means to connect, to realize and identify you are not alone every step you take. Every breath of air is a gift given to you from above. Prayer gives you the cuddly effect, as a child who is scared and is cuddled by their parents as the storm passes. Prayer is there to engulf you. You allow yourself to be cuddled by the creator as the storms in your life are roaring. Have no fear, for the creator is forever holding you, if you just allow yourself to be held.
Sister Kathryn Madden, Ronkonkoma Cenacle:
Funny that you should ask me on my way to my first MRI, a test I had been dreading, given my fear of enclosed spaces. I resolved to not look at the machine and to keep my eyes closed the entire time. I pondered St. Teresa of Ávila's wisdom that in Jesus we have a God who graciously submits to us. At this moment of dread, I could represent Jesus in me at a moment of fear in his own life. In allowing the technician to lead me like a blind woman into the room, I prayed with Jesus' Anastasis, his descent into hell on Holy Saturday to raise up those captive by demons. It became Jesus leading me into the enclosed space I feared. It was Jesus refreshing me with unexpected currents of air across my face. It was Jesus talking to me every step of the way and letting me know that I was doing fine. It was Jesus who, after 45 minutes, took my hands and raised me from the table. He led me out into the corridor, honoring my resolve not to look back at where I had been. His courageous victory over demons was now mine. As I walked out into the bright sun, I realized that it was not prayer, but Jesus who had conquered my fear. When you face the demon of fear, I invite you to represent Jesus in you in moments when he felt most alone and afraid. Fear not! His victory will be yours!