“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
At first reading, especially if the person doing the reading views faith skeptically, this prayer can sound less like a fervent wish for someone, and more like a shallow, albeit well-meaning, passage you might see in a spiritual get-well card. “May God fill you with joy and peace, so you can ABOUND in hope.” Not just kind of manage, but abound. Easy peasy, right? Just a simple wish for God will fill you with everything good so you can go skipping along through life. Even for those of us who approach faith with open arms, it can seem like an awful lot to ask.
I have often prayed before “God, I don’t want to feel like this,” (this being devastated/lost/empty, etc.) These were honest, but not particularly faithful prayers. God is all powerful, all knowing, all loving – and my requests to Him were along the lines of “hey, if i could feel just notionally better than terrible, that’d be great.” Forget abounding with anything, anywhere. I prefer to think I was trying to be the polite person my parents raised me to be and I just didn’t want to ask for too much, like not taking more than one’s share at a dinner party. But in reality, I was doubting what was really possible. Doubting that God has more than enough love, guidance, peace, joy, and grace to give each of us, that it could completely fill us, and that He wants us to ask him for it. Not in a way that sounds like someone hoping not to bother Him, but like someone who has faith to know that He can deliver beyond our imaginations.
If we ruminate on the words in this passage, we know that not only is it not shallow but it represents a wonderful gift from God. We can have the courage to be bold asking for Him to fill us and others with complete joy and peace and hope, because we know that God doesn’t just want His children to feel sort of cared for, or kind of optimistic. Our God does not do half-hearted; He does not want us to merely “feel better.” He wants the best for us. We are not to abound in hope through our own human, fallible power, our own will to fight the negative forces that life can hold. This prayer reminds us that when our own abilities fail, our faith allows us a source of strength and hope that can make even the most weary among us abound – the unending power of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s a prayer for today:
Overwhelm us with strength and hope today, Holy One. Give us life to the fullest, courage at our weakest, and love to the surest degree. Amen.
Today’s devotional comes from Immanuel member Cait Boehm.