Prayers for the Unknown

We plan, we hope, we expect, we yearn. But in the end, “Only the Father knows.”

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The front page of the "Los Angeles Times" from June 11, 1939

We pray and believe in a future that we cannot know for sure. Doctors can’t tell us, news pundits certainly err and I pity anyone who has to predict the stock market’s ups and downs for a living.

When I look to the Bible I see that when Jesus, in all his glory, in his transcendent magnificence, was asked when exactly the world would come to an end (oh, that future), he responded, “Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36). And yet we continue to pray for what we believe and what we yearn for.

I thought of this while cleaning out the back of a closet. There was a box of things Dad had sent me years ago—it had to be years ago because he died more than two years ago and his days of sending me clippings in the mail ended well before that. This was the front page of a newspaper that his father had probably saved; the date: June 11, 1939. There on the front page were the King and Queen of England and an article describing their visit to Hyde Park, New York. Someone must have been an Anglophile in the family for that milestone to register.

But what registered to me was the article in the newspaper right below that in a much smaller headline: “Hitler Peace Plan Rumored.” This was late spring 1939, three months before the invasion of Poland and the world exploding into war. So much for the dependability of news and rumored peace plans.

This morning I was reading the book of Romans, which scholars think was probably the last thing Paul wrote. He was planning to visit Rome on his way to Spain but would first make a trip to Jerusalem. He had big plans, important things to do. Well, we know from the book of Acts about the shipwreck he was in on his way to Rome, and it’s also pretty certain that he didn’t make it to Spain. But how does he end the book of Romans? What are his last words? A prayer: “May the glory be to God who can strengthen you with my good news and the message that I preach about Jesus Christ” (Romans 16:25).

There it is. We plan, we hope, we expect, we yearn. But in the end, “Only the Father knows.” So I keep those prayers and plans brewing, and the rest I put in God’s hands. 

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