They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
There are life lessons we can learn by listening to prayers. For instance, my parents’ prayers nurtured me to be a follower of Jesus. By their example, I learned to give thanks to God, to ask for forgiveness, to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, and much more. They also taught me to lament, to cry out to God, for help and for justice on the earth.
We need to learn prayers of praise, and we need to learn prayers of lament. Jesus’ prayer on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) was a soul-piercing cry to God from Psalm 22.
In our reading from Revelation today, we listen again to the prayer of the martyrs: “How long, Sovereign Lord . . . until you . . . avenge our blood?” And we can see that this echoes ancient laments in the Psalms (see also Psalm 74:10; 94:3; 119:84).
In this passage God opens our eyes to a bigger and better picture of faith. We are challenged to long as much as God does for justice and peace on the earth. The martyrs are not content just to be in heaven. They continue to work and pray for God’s justice to be present on earth as it is in heaven. Their prayer also reminds us that God plans to restore not just our souls but also the whole earth, where we will live again one day in our bodies, restored and whole.
These are powerful words for living by faith today.
Thank you, Lord, for having us listen and learn from the prayer of the martyrs. Bring justice and peace, Lord. Amen.
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