They Have No Wine!
One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is the story of the wedding of Cana in which Jesus turns water into wine. Granted my daughter just got engaged, so weddings are part of most every day’s conversations at my house these days, but what is not to love about this story? Love leading to a wedding, a great party, good wine, and Jesus comes through to save the day.
Over the years I’ve had several questions about this story, not the least of which is that wine is not made from water, but from fermented grapes. And good wine is not made in a hurry. So there’s the miracle of transformation at work, and the hope that sometimes, though it may not be the usual way He does things, sometimes change might happen ‘just like that’.
That would be enough, really. It’s a good story if that’s all it gave me. But lately, working on the idea of confession, of just owning and stating things as they are, I see another pattern in this story I want to remember.
This time I am looking at Mary and she is teaching me how to pray. Yes, Mary is praying here.
The wine ran out. That’s a problem at a wedding reception. Mary turns to Jesus and says, “They have no wine.” Period. That’s it. That is all she says. In four words - she tells him the problem. That’s prayer.
My sister teaches swimming lessons in the early summer and tries to fit her training program into the first few weeks of June. This year’s schedule was especially tricky as she was sandwiching her swim school between two trips. One day on the phone she said to me, “Please pray it doesn’t rain so I can finish these lessons. I prayed yesterday; and though rain was predicted, I got them all done. I hate to ask again but…”
I interrupted her, “Did you just hear what you said? You hate to ask God again?”
We both laughed at the absurdity. Does God ever tire of hearing the voices of his daughters in need?
Mary doesn’t plead like a beggar nor does she apologize for asking. She doesn’t dictate to him that she’d like a case of Merlot and a half case of Sauvignon Blanc. She doesn’t give him details about which guests drank more than their share and who hasn’t had the first glass yet. She doesn’t even say, “If it be your will.” Really.
All she says is, “They have no wine.”
I wish I could see her face. In my mind’s eye, she has her eyes locked on his, those eyes she’s known since she cradled him in her arms. She has a steely confidence that while telling him the problem, He has a solution.
I want to pray like her, to see someone in need and say, “They have no_______(fill in the need).” To look at myself and say, “I’ve go no more________ (energy, time, money, words, patience…).” And then just stop right there waiting to see what, if anything, he says I need to do.
He says a puzzling thing to her about his hour not yet coming and what does it have to do with him, and I’ll leave it to scholars to figure out what he meant, but as far as I can tell, that doesn’t bother her in the least. She turns straight to the servants and says, “Do whatever He says.”
The pattern I discern is this: State the problem. Stop. Be ready to do whatever He tells you. If he doesn’t tell you do anything, don’t.
That would shorten some prayer meetings and vocalized prayer requests.
I’ve been bothered at times by the prescriptive nature of prayers. Of course I want good biopsy results and employment to come through immediately and healing without surgeries or chemo, but sometimes our prayer requests start sounding like a Christmas lists made by an eight-year-old -very precise so Santa doesn’t deliver the wrong gift.
Once the Father gave us the Son, why do we worry about ‘the lesser things’…could he give us the wrong gift?
“They have no wine.” That’s a prayer made by a woman who knew exactly who she was talking to and what He was capable of doing. She didn’t send the servants out to pick grapes, nor did she ask him if he was capable of speeding up the fermentation process.
Four Words: They Have No Wine.
Four More Words: Do whatever He says.