Journey Mercies

This past Sunday one of the prayer requests shared during worship was for “travel mercies” for those who are away or taking trips this week. It got me to thinking.

Every day, nearly all of us head out the front door, hop into our cars or maybe get on a bus, and go somewhere – to work or school or to run an errand or to visit someone. Except for the ordinary care and attention to road signs and traffic, we seldom think about our safety on the way or whether or not we’ll arrive.

It has not always been that way and still isn’t in many parts of the world. When I visit Lucy in Kenya (or when she comes here), every time we get ready to leave, whether it’s for a 2-day safari or 2 hour trip to the local village store, we pray before we leave the residence, and we pray before we start the vehicle, and we pray when we arrive back home.

In Kenya, where roads are often deeply rutted or badly worn and crowded with pedestrians, motorbikes, donkey carts, and sheep; where you could come across police officers on the take, thieves, and – who knows! – a rogue elephant, safe travel and safe arrival are not guaranteed or assumed.

This was true in Jesus’ time as well. Which is why people typically traveled in groups, and why Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan, about “A man [who] was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers” (Luke 10:30), resonated with his hearers.

In truth, we shouldn’t – and don’t – assume our own safe travel here, either. Which is why we wear seat belts and have car assurance and carry our AAA cards. Those are important risk-reducing measures. But perhaps they give us a false sense of security. We really can’t guarantee our own safety, whether it’s on a quick trip to the grocery story, or on a long trip to another state, or on the journey of life. Prayer for “travel mercies” is always appropriate.

Here’s a wonderful traveler’s prayer: Psalm 121 – one of the “Songs of Ascent,” a group of psalms composed for the annual festival journeys to Jerusalem. Note especially the last verse. It’s what what I learned to pray from from Lucy.

     1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?
     2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
     3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
     4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
     5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
     6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
     7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
     8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Do you know someone who is traveling this week? Take a moment to pray for journey mercies for them … and include yourself in that prayer in your own life’s journey. And may the Lord keep your going out and your coming in this week, and forevermore.

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