I recently began a new format for my quiet time, reviving an old practice that Timberley and I had used after we got married. It comes from a book that she gave me that is basically a guide for one’s daily time with God. It comes from a liturgical tradition and the Bible readings are based on the liturgical calendar. The prayer time each day is based on the simple formula: “Prayers for the church, for others, for yourself.” I made a new prayer list with three pages. The first I used to list needs at our church that I could lift up to God. The second page is a list of other people for whom I pray. The third page is a personal list of prayer items. On the second page I began listing family members, and almost without thinking the third name I listed, after Timberley and Samuel, was Anna. As I did so, I asked myself, “What do I need to pray concerning Anna?”
First, I pray not so much for Anna, but because of Anna. I give thanks to God that for nine years he gave us a blessing. Anna was a joy to be around. Yes, there were challenges. Clothing tags. Her over-zealous (in my opinion) affection for all animal life. But these were so small in comparison to the joys. Her music. Her joy for living. Her wisdom. Her contagious love for Christ. Her deep desire to do what was right and to please the Lord in all things. Her affectionate love for her brother. I don’t know how to describe her love for her mother and me. I know that she thought that all things good came from her mother, and she modeled so much of who she was on watching and listening to Timberley. And so I thank God for the blessing of those nine years.
Related to the first, but a little different is that I can thank God for the memory of those nine years. What I mean is that not only did we have that time together, but now God has given me the opportunity to remember, to ponder, to reflect upon those memories. In a sense, the memories then become something more meaningful than the actual events themselves. It is not that I am creating a new memory, but rather that as I reflect on past events, I can bring those memories and reflections to bear on present circumstances, and the conversation between the two becomes something greater than the sum of the two by themselves.
Third, I can pray for Anna. I have said this before, but just because Anna has died, it does not follow that all is finished for her. It is not as if she has ceased to exist. Certainly not! She is waiting in aniticipation for the fulfillment of all things just as we are here. Although she is enjoying the presence of the Lord in some way, she is still awaiting the day of Christ’s return “when the dead shall be raised.” According to Paul, on that day she will rise first and meet the Lord in the air. And then we who are alive (if that day comes soon enough!) shall follow in her wake. No, Anna’s life is far from over. Her hopes and expectations are far from being completely fulfilled. She has yearnings in her present state that I know not of. Her enjoyment of the Lord’s presence is perhaps creating in her a more bitter longing, if I may use the expression, since she sees more clearly than I what is to come. She knows more clearly than I what will be, but what is not yet. And so I can only imagine that the longing in her for Christ’s return and final victory is more overwhelming for her than for me. And so I can pray for Anna that all of her longings would be fulfilled soon.
Finally, I believe that even after the return of Christ, when all things are fulfilled, we will not be released from our utter dependence on the Lord for all things. In fact, I would imagine that we would be even more aware of our constant need for Christ after we have been raised. And so I can pray that the Lord will continue to look after Anna. I can pray that he will keep her safe and secure until the end of all things. I can pray these things not because there is any doubt that God will do them. On the contrary, I can pray them because I have certainty that God will do them.