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The Oxymoronic Prayer

When I taught high school English, Romeo and Juliet provided many an example of the oxymoron–a short figure of speech that has contradictory terms.

Romeo (about Rosaline):

“Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.

Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.

Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate…”

Romeo again (about Rosaline):

“Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,

Still-waking sleep that is not what it is!”

Juliet (on learning of Romeo’s murder of Tybalt):

O serpent heart, hid with a flow’ring face!

Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?

Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical!

And here’s one I always used as an example . . .

Juliet to Romeo:

“Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet


Parting is sweet sorrow indeed. The believers in Caesarea experienced that oxymoronic feeling when Paul parted from them, so much so that Paul said, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?”

The believers there were concerned he would be murdered when he returned to Jerusalem, because his message about Jesus had been so convincing. It’s hard to say goodbye to loved ones, even under the best of circumstances. But they knew that Paul’s mission was to spread the Good News about the saving grace of Christ.

So they said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” They didn’t want Paul to leave, but they prayed God’s will be done. The two-sided coin prayer, as I described it almost 20 years ago.

Is that the hardest prayer to pray?

“I need this job, Lord, to pay our bills . . . but your will be done.”

“I’ve been accused falsely, Father. Please bring about justice . . . but your will be done.”

“God, my loved one is very ill. Heal her . . . your will be done.”

Jesus prayed that prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Take this cup from me, but your will be done.” Then he was arrested, falsely accused, wrongfully convicted, and crucified. And God’s will was done. Amidst pain and suffering God’s will was done.

Awful, horrible pain is falling right now on several I know. I’ve been brought to tears more than once this morning. “Why, God?”

And that may be the most-asked prayer: Why? But again, that also was a prayer that Jesus also prayed: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why?

The one comfort I have today is knowing that the God I worship is also the God who suffered great loss . . . and knows of my pain. He alone can provide solace. He alone can slip into the cracks of a broken heart and mend it. He alone can restore joy in the morning.

And so . . . I keep #LookingUp !

Janet McHenry is a speaker and author of 24 books–six on prayer, including PrayerWalk and The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She would love to connect with you through social media, where she has a Bible study (Bible Girls) on Facebook and a prayer group (The Safe Place Prayer Group)–all her links are here:

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