They were told to wait a little longer. . . .
Prayer is the Holy Spirit’s gift to help us hold on to God and not let go when we are hurting. We cry out to God because we know our help “comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). If we listen to the prayers of lament raised by God’s people, we can see that they really knew God.
The prayer of the martyred saints in our reading today is based on the deep conviction that God is the “Sovereign Lord.” The powers of the world—political, social, economic—may have prevailed in ending their lives, but these saints know there is more. Their death was not the final word. They continue to confess that God is the Sovereign Lord. They also know that God is like no other. God is holy and true to his word.
These saints also know that God listens and responds to the cry of his people. And to their cry, “How long?” God answers, “Wait a little longer. . . .” In 2 Peter 3:8-9 the Bible helps us understand this, saying, “With the Lord . . . a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., knew well this response to our prayers for help. He said, “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. How long? Not long, because ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. . . .’”
Almighty God, listen to your children praying. Help us to keep the faith until you come. Amen.