“In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world”
Jesus’ words are strong and wonderful words. They capture an important feature of the Christian understanding, one which, perhaps, we have forgotten. The Resurrection changes how we look on the world and on our experiences in the world. The Resurrection is cosmic in scope. The celebration of human redemption equally embraces the idea of the redemption of the world. That is really what is meant by the term ‘overcoming’.
Today is, or was, commonly called Rogation Sunday. Rogation is about asking. Prayer, in its most basic sense, is about asking. To ask for something recognizes that you don’t have something which you need or would like to have. The idea of asking is itself a kind of reality check on the human situation. It recognizes that we are incomplete. Asking means looking to another for what we do not have but want and need. The ultimate Other is God. Asking is a fundamental feature of prayer. And of the possibilities of education, of learning, too. The passionate desire (eros) to know means recognising that you do not know.
Asking is complemented by another fundamental feature of prayer, namely, praise. Prayer and praise are important features of Rogationtide. Prayer is to be understood in a much bigger and broader sense than what we might ordinarily think. Prayer is large in its scope. As Richard Hooker puts it, “prayer signifies all the service we ever do unto God.” In other words, prayer in its largest sense embraces the whole of our lives. Our lives are to be understood as lives of prayer and praise.
The liberating factor is that prayer and praise place us with God. Nothing need stand between us and God. Why not? Because of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are, you might say, freed to God. Prayer and praise are about that freedom.