Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (NIV)
It's sad to see Pope John Paul II suffering. He means a lot to his people, and for almost three decades, we have all been blessed with his prayers for peace and his personal visitations in many countries throughout the world. I remember when he came to visit Scotland and how that excited all of my Roman Catholic cousins. They each felt personally honoured that the Pope was coming to see his Scottish people, and they also knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I was in college at that time, learning how to become a Presbyterian pastor. Every week, a group of students would meet for prayer during lunch. It was a pretty conservative bunch, and I was considered to be a radical. We prayed for peace in the world, for the conversion of our country, and for Christ to guide our ministries. We prayed out aloud and took turns to express to God what was on our hearts.
When it came to my turn, half the room had still to pray. I was thinking about the joy that my cousins were all experiencing, and so I naively prayed for God to bless the Pope's ministry in Scotland and for all his people to be drawn nearer to Christ through the visit. As I finished with my "Amen", I felt a distinct chill across the entire room. Someone muttered a quick closing prayer, and before I knew it, everyone was leaving.
Somehow I had overstepped a boundary and made a major mistake. I couldn't understand it, and no-one would tell me what I did that was so wrong. Then I realized how conservative the prayer group was, and I knew that I wouldn't be welcome there again. I never went back to that prayer meeting. I couldn't stomach the prejudice.
As the Pope heads into his last days, suffering terribly, I continue to pray for him. He's sacrificed himself, his health, and his strength over many years. He's been a great servant of Christ and a worthy leader of his people. Though I don't agree with everything he believes, nevertheless I admire him for his pro-life, pro-marriage stance and for his defence of biblical authority, but more importantly, for the faith he has lived and expressed to the world. His broken spirit will not be despised by God.
Prayer: Father God, look upon us, your humble servants, and in the midst of our broken and fragile ways, be our strength and salvation. We also thank You for the great leaders of the Christian church, and we ask, at this time, for Your blessing of peace to rest upon Pope John Paul II and all his people. May we all be drawn nearer to one another as Christians in the world, through the guidance and presence of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.