Monday, October 7, 2013

The Powerful Pull of Prayer

Sandra Bullock stars in this film, “Gravity,” about an astronaut who has to keep the space shuttle going at 55 mph or it will blow up; it’s subtitled “Speed 3”…. I kid, I kid.

Really, this is a film about prayer in space. You may think I’m kidding about that, but I’m not. You can enjoy this new film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón as a straight adventure film, but there is more going on than the story of astronauts trying to get home.

George Clooney, along with Bullock, plays an astronaut doing repair work on a space telescope when a barrage of debris from an exploded satellite sets the two adrift in space. The rest of the spare 90 minute film is about their attempt to make it back to earth.

Now, if you don’t like tension in your film viewing experience, you may wish to pass this movie by, because as events go badly for our space travelers early in the film, they quickly get worse and the tension keeps ratcheting up.

But does any of this have to do with prayer? Early in the film, radio contact with Houston control is lost, but Clooney keeps talking as if they’re listening, updating his status. Bullock asks him why he keeps talking. He responds that Houston may well hear him, even if he can’t hear their response. Many of us become frustrated in our prayer lives because we feel like we’re talking to a brick wall; no one’s listening. But silence doesn’t mean God isn’t listening. It might just mean He’s listening but giving us space to talk. Psalm 4:3 assures us that “the Lord hears when I call to Him.”

It’s interesting that objects related to prayer (not strictly Christian) are seen throughout the film. In a Russian spacecraft, there is an icon of a saint. In a Chinese craft, a small Buddha statue sits on top of a control panel.

Later, the film is more explicitly about prayer. In fact, one character says, “No one taught me to pray.” Many of us are under the mistaken impression that we need some kind of magical formulation of words in order to get God’s attention.

There are things to learn about prayer (the Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request to be taught how to pray), but it’s interesting what sound is heard immediately after this character says, “No one taught me to pray.” Because I don’t want to spoil plot points and because it would take too many words to explain, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the sound is a baby’s cry.

Psalm 18:6 says, “In my distress I called to the LORD: I cried to my God for help. From his
temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” We don’t need a secret formula to pray to God. He hears us when we cry.

“Gravity” does have some harsh language earning it a PG-13, which understandably might lead some to choose not to see this film. Fortunately our harsh language won’t keep God from hearing us. There are also some gruesome images in the film, which might make some in the audience turn away. Fortunately, God doesn’t turn away from our pain.

The famous tag line for the movie “Alien” was “In space no one can hear you scream.” The tag line for “Gravity” could be “In space God will hear your cry.” He hears it on earth as well.

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