Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In the northern hemisphere the sun is at it’s highest point in the sky and will shed it’s light on Britain from 04.43 until 21.21, a total time of 16 hours 38 minutes 21 seconds. Actually that is only a few seconds longer than the days each side of 21st… as I found out here by googling it! 😉 So at 10 ‘o’ clock last night as I drove home in the twilight and the pouring rain, it had actually been a 16 hour, 38 minute day too. As with an athlete in a race, those few seconds make all the difference to attaining first place. I wonder if the pagans at Stonehenge got washed out waiting for the morning of the sacred day?
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. Psalm 19v4-6
The sun doesn’t actually move though, does it? We know these days it’s actually us – earth – moving. There was a time, long before google, when we didn’t know that and when Galileo suggested it he got himself in very big trouble with the Church! Let that be a lesson to us who think we know God and His ways but only see part of the picture!
It was 8 years ago today my friend and prayer partner decided to go for a long walk on the longest day. First thing on Saturday morning, provoked by the Spirit, he headed off into the sunset to see how far he could get! We prayed together by text for the whole walk, while I was gardening at home. I got blisters on my hands and he got them on his feet, but we were both encouraged that God was marking something in our lives – and even perhaps in the cities of the nation. That was the kind of seed we were sowing in those days, crazy journeys and ‘loud cries and tears’ that God would come and ‘heal our land’… and though we have seen many good things, we are still watering that seed and looking for the harvest. Perhaps that is why I hark back to it like this, a reminder of what is in the ground.
The prayer-walk was about a ‘long day anointing’ – like when the sun stood still in the sky while Joshua fought his enemies, until he has beaten them. OK, it was actually the earth that stood still… but the point was, time stopped until what needed to happen had happened. That is an interesting concept! And in the story it happened because Joshua proclaimed it would:
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon”. So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel! Joshua 10v12-14
Prayer can be a powerful thing! Time is certainly in God’s hands, but if we ask Him to lengthen it or shorten it… perhaps He will. Jesus Himself said, about the troubles of the end times, ‘If those days had not been cut short, no-one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened’ Matthew 24v22. In prayer there is a partnership going on – that is the point of praying ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done’!
But the anointing to last the long day – that is something else. The strength of the Spirit to persevere and endure and keep going without stopping… It was all very well for Joshua and his men to get an extra 12 (or 16?) hours to continue fighting, but that would be not good if they ran out of energy. We need not just ‘more time’, but the strength to persevere until the fulfilment of the time – and it is patience that grows those inner waiting muscles and the encouragement of God’s promises that keeps us fighting. ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ Galatians 6v9 – because you just can’t get the harvest before harvest time!
As we as a family try to look ahead, recognising this time of stability – that our prayers seem to have been answered and Sam is in remission – it is natural to wonder ‘how long?’ We have prayed for Hezekiah’s 15 years (Isaiah 38) – and indeed for multiples of 15! Maybe Sam is healed, as we have prayed. He may have many fulfilling years ahead of him… but we cannot know. So in that waiting I surely do need the ‘long day anointing’ to strengthen my innermost being, to keep me persevering in hope and peace through the months ahead… whatever happens.
8 years ago today as I was gardening, praying and texting Steve, I also went out and bought a birdbath. For me it has become a pictorial symbol of persevering prayer. The 3 stone pelicans that sit underneath the water bowl look more than a little like groaning intercessors, holding up a weight on their heads! There are 3 of them in agreement, lifting their bowl to God, while their prayers provide refreshment for the birds of the air – a bit like the tree that grows from a mustard seed in Jesus’ parable (Luke 13v19). Prayer can do that because it’s the ‘heaven to earth to heaven’ connection, the kingdom agenda that is so much bigger than we ask, think or dream…
I call the pelicans Faith, Hope and Love.