Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Four Theories of Atonement

I wrote this brief paper in 2010 for my Greek I class at Seattle University. I'm posting it to my blog now because of a number of recent conversations with college students and young adults about the theological concept of atonement. What exactly was Jesus’ work, and what did he accomplish? What is the effect supposed to be of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection? What might this theological buzzword “atonement” really mean? And why should it matter to us?

The Crucifixion (1622) by Simon Vouet
Image from Wikipedia
A church near my house features a reader board that proclaims: “For God so loved the World that He sent His Son to die for us. – John 3:16.” Every time I pass this sign, I cringe at the misquote; this particular passage of Scripture says nothing about Jesus dying! And then I ponder the way many Christians build their faith around a theory of substitutionary atonement, believing that God sent Jesus to suffer a violent death, and that in no other way could humankind be reconciled to God. 

So of all the Greek words I have learned this quarter, the one that most beckoned me to go deeper was hilasmos, which Walter Bauer defines as expiation, propitiation, or sin-offering1 and which is often translated atoning sacrifice. A comparison of the occurrence of this word in the First Letter of John with other occurrences in the Bible reveals qualities about the word that call into question the theory of substitutionary atonement and that support instead the “Narrative Christus Victor” motif put forth by J. Denny Weaver. 

Over the centuries, a number of prominent theories of atonement have found favor in the Church. 2 The earliest predominant theory was called Christus Victor, and it treated Jesus as a ransom debt that God paid to Satan in order to free humanity. Upon taking Jesus into hell, Satan was surprised to discover not just another human being, but God Himself, and in this way, Satan was defeated. John of Chrysostom explicated this dramatic storyline in his well-known Easter sermon from the fifth century:
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.3

The Christus Victor idea eventually fell out of favor, largely because theologians felt that God was above bargaining with Satan, and that Satan, as a rebel, had no power or right to a ransom. Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) filled the void with his concept of substitutionary atonement: that Jesus’ death accomplished our salvation by restoring God’s offended honor. An angry God, fed up with the evil deeds of humanity, needed a blood sacrifice to appease Him. But because He loved us so much, God offered His own son as the sacrifice. Variations on this theory are known by the names satisfaction and penal; in all of them, a violent punishment is needed to set things right, and Jesus is the victim God sends to do the job.

This theory claims as evidence large swaths of the Hebrew Scriptures, including the whole system of temple sacrifice that was still operating in Jesus’ time. And the word hilasmos as found in the First Letter of John suggests that the Johannine community may have been a primary source for Anselm’s theory: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice [hilasmos] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”4 

Anselm’s substitutionary atonement has become the dominant theory for many Christians in the world today; many Protestant churches even treat substitutionary atonement as a litmus test for orthodoxy. But it presents a number of theological problems. Is there some higher law—higher than God, even—which dictates that this sacrifice must take place? Is there no free gift of redemption: that is, must the debt of sin be paid back? Is there no path to redemption other than violent punishment? Fortunately, by no means has Anselm’s work been the final word on the matter. 

Not long after Anselm, Abelard (1079-1142) put forth his “moral influence” motif to counter the idea that God could be saddled with such a fragile sense of honor. Abelard suggested that instead of God changing His attitude, it was required that we humans change ours. Jesus’ death was a demonstration of the depths of God’s eternal love, and it was meant to inspire moral change in humankind. 

J. Denny Weaver points out that each of these three atonement motifs focuses on a different audience’s need to change.5 In Christus Victor, the crucifixion defeats Satan and eliminates his power. Anselm’s substitutionary or satisfaction model seeks to change God’s mind about damning the creatures He has created. And in Abelard’s moral influence motif, it is we, moved by an example of love, who need to change our ways. But in all three of these theories of atonement, Jesus is the game-changing sacrifice and God advocates violence against His own son. Weaver writes that each of these theories “appears to reduce the life of Jesus to an elaborate scheme whose purpose was to produce his death.”6 Perhaps most importantly, the central nature of the crucifixion allows for significant doubt about what role, if any, the Resurrection plays.

So of what nature is this hilasmos, this atoning sacrifice? And is there a theologically sound version of atonement theory that can fit hilasmos in with the nature of the Jesus of the Gospels?

A variation on hilasmos, this time as the verb hilaskomai, is found in Hebrews 2:17 in its present passive infinitive form, hilaskesthai: “Therefore [Jesus] had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement [
hilaskesthai] for the sins of the people.” The NRSV turns the infinitive into a noun, thereby confusing the translation; Bauer translates the phrase as “to expiate the sins of the people.”7 Either way, Jesus is not only the sacrifice but also the great high priest offering the sacrifice, and he does so out of mercy. The word used here for merciful is eleimon, which carries connotations of pity or sympathy.8 But this is the only time this word appears in the Christian Scriptures. At other times when mercy is the quality being expressed, the word hilasmos keeps showing up in different forms.

Hilaskomai appears in its passive form in Luke 18:13, in Jesus’ parable of the two men praying in the temple: “God, be merciful to me [hilastheti], a sinner!” (NRSV) This could be rendered, “God, propitiate me, a sinner!” This man doesn’t want God’s pity; he wants a fresh start. He wants righteousness: right relationship with God.

In Romans 3:25, Paul uses the word hilasterion immediately after demonstrating that we are no longer captive to the Law through our new life of faith in Christ. He writes:

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement [
hilasterion] by his blood, effective through faith. (NRSV)

Closer to the original meaning of the word
hilasterion is “mercy seat,” although it is not usually translated this way.9 In Leviticus 16:13-16, the “mercy seat” is the cover to the Ark of the Covenant, and the high priest is instructed to sprinkle the blood of animal sacrifices on it. But rather than make that connection to the ancient Hebrew rituals, most English translations simply state that Jesus was “a sacrifice of atonement” (NIV) or “a propitiation” (KJV).

We find one more interesting use of a related word in Matthew 16:22: ἵλεώς, an adjective meaning gracious or merciful. Jesus has just told the disciples that he will be killed and rise on the third day. Peter’s reaction is, “Hileos soi, Kyrie!” Here the translation is a bit problematic, because the core of Peter’s sentence seems to contain only two adjectives: “Merciful your.” Young’s Literal Translation renders it: “Be kind to thyself, sir!” According to Bauer, this is an expression meaning, “May God be gracious to you, Lord,” or “May God in his mercy spare you this.” A shorthand version, “God forbid!” or “Never!,” is the way it is usually rendered in English.

Once we have shown that the word translated “atoning sacrifice” runs deep with undercurrents of mercy, questions inevitably follow. Is Jesus the mercy seat, the sacrifice, or the priest performing the sacrificial ritual? If he is the priest, is he also the sacrificial animal? Is the sacrifice meant to appease God’s anger, restore his lost honor, or pay a debt to God? And if so, where is the mercy? Mercy implies the revoking of deserved punishment. If hilasmos carries a connotation of mercy, we may well wonder why any creature must die to bring it about, not least of all Jesus.

Another kind of mercy is at work here, but it is not about pity or any sort of legal transaction. It is about victory. Weaver presents his case for a theory of atonement called “Narrative Christus Victor.”11 Drawing on the original Christus Victor motif, along with the work of Rene Girard and other theologians, Weaver sees importance in the entire story of Jesus. God sends Jesus as a gift, but in collusion with the forces of evil in the world, we humans kill him. We might see the Nativity as bait for the evil forces, the Crucifixion as the taking of the bait, and the Resurrection as the surprising victory that simultaneously unmasks the evil forces and knocks death, their greatest weapon, from their hands.

Weaver writes: “In carrying out his mission, Jesus was ready to die and he was willing to die. It was not a death, however, that was required as compensatory retribution for the sins of his enemies and his friends. It was a death that resulted from fulfillment of his mission about the reign of God.”12 By being born as a human being, it was a given that Jesus would die. Furthermore, the things Jesus said and did, upsetting the status quo of Temple Judaism and inviting a reaction from the evil forces at work in the world, all but guaranteed that his death would be a violent one. But violent death or no, Jesus was a gift of mercy to us. Through Jesus, God intended to end any notion of substitutionary atonement or blood sacrifice. As Weaver writes: “Rather than continuing it, Jesus’ death unmasks and thus ends religion based on sacrifice or retributive violence.”13 

So in the “Narrative Christus Victor” model, it is the living example of Jesus and Christ’s Resurrection that accomplish salvation—not his death. It is true that he had to go through death in order to get to the Resurrection. By his entire life, Jesus demonstrated that love will hurt us and might even kill us. But through God’s grace, love is more powerful than the forces of domination that threaten it.

Those who choose to live in the hope of the Resurrection have cause for endless celebration, no matter what indignities are put upon them by the evil powers at work in the world. The atoning sacrifice—hilasmos— accomplishes salvation by freeing us from the fear of death. Jesus has gone ahead of us through death and has come back to show us that it is the gateway to eternal life.

End Notes
1 Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition, p. 375.
2 My development of the primary theories of atonement follows J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement, pp. 14-19.
3 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada,
4 1 John 2:1b-2, The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha (Oxford University Press, 1989), NT p. 83.
5 Weaver, J. Denny, The Nonviolent Atonement, p. 18.
6 Ibid., p. 69.
7 Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition, p. 375.
8 Ibid., p. 250.
9 Ibid., p. 375.
10 Ibid., p. 376.
11 My development of the “Narrative Christus Victor” motif follows J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement, Chapter 3.
12 Weaver, J. Denny, The Nonviolent Atonement, p. 42.
13 Ibid., p.48.


Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition (Chicago, 1979).

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, “An Easter Sermon,” St. John of Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, ca. C.E. 407. Translated by André Lavergne for

The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha (Oxford University Press, 1989).

Weaver, J. Denny, The Nonviolent Atonement (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 2001).

Thursday, July 28, 2016


homily preached at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler, Curate
Thursday, July 28, 2016, 10:00 a.m.

"Father knows best" ... not.
In the past week I’ve been inundated with surprising pastoral care situations. I won’t go into the details except to say that there was a common thread: strangers seeing my collar and then expecting me to be able to tell them exactly what God wants them to do.

I’ve been a priest for two years now, and I still find this a little surprising. It puts me in mind of what Karl Marx said about religion being “the opiate of the masses.” It shouldn’t be, but it can be. Wherever Christian leaders have taught people not to think for themselves, but to rely on others to do their thinking for them, trouble lies close at hand. This nurturing of dependence on other human beings is not true to anything that Jesus teaches us.

For Jesus taught us freedom—freedom that grows from love. How did he teach us? Through words, yes, but not with an instruction book, but with stories. Parables. Our education in the faith is actually best done in an abstract way, because each of us must live our own life and make our own decisions.

All of this plays into people’s various misunderstandings of what education is supposed to be in the first place. For instance, people who haven’t made much of an effort to read the Bible might feel as if they are not qualified to be helpful to others in matters of faith—guilt-laden, they’ll confess that they just don’t have the knowledge. This assumes that book knowledge is what makes one an expert. Book knowledge is helpful, but it’s not the only kind. By itself, it downplays the wisdom of our actual lived experiences of God. Book knowledge is a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to wisdom.

By the same token, our actual lived experiences of God usually need interpretation through the lenses of others to set them into a larger context. Book knowledge can help with this process—knowledge of various strands of Christian theology and how they might fit in with our individual situation. Wisdom comes through openness to all sorts of knowledge.

Is this how we become followers of Jesus? Didn't think so.
But in our culture today, book knowledge is the kind of education we usually think of first. Many people’s understanding of education is what I jokingly call, “open head, insert facts.” This works pretty well with math. But as a result, for instance, some parents choose not to let their children take communion yet because they don’t think the children have enough facts in their heads. Meanwhile, the most important knowledge of communion is experiential: Here is the path your baptism set you on. Here is community. Here is invitation and inclusion. Here is sustenance for your Christian journey. Here you are touching the holy. Here is love. The youngest children understand at least some of these things instinctively. Book knowledge will come later, but it will be inspired and informed by first-hand knowledge of the thing itself. We are not merely being educated, but formed.

From the font directly to the table
to begin experiencing Holy Communion.
(Source: Wikimedia)
I think our entire faith lives are like this. We don’t truly learn about things before we experience them. Rather, we experience things and reflect on them theologically. The task of Christian “educators”—and yes, I put that in quotes on purpose—is not to “open head, insert facts,” but to help people learn to draw close to the mystery of God. In Godly Play, that can be as simple as beginning a sentence with “I wonder …”

One of my favorite authors, Robert Farrar Capon, put it best:

Christian education is not the communication of correct views about what the various works and words of Jesus might mean; rather it is the stocking of the imagination with the icons of those works and words themselves. It is most successfully accomplished, therefore, not by catechisms that purport to produce understanding, but by stories that hang the icons, understood or not, on the walls of the mind.[1]

And this is why, at St. Paul’s, we refer not to “education,” but “formation.” My new title is Associate Priest for Adult Formation. My job is to help form faithful adults. I’m not the potter, but I invite people into the potter’s house for the sake of being formed under the potter’s hands. I can’t tell people what God wants them to do or become, but I hope I might inspire them to draw nearer to God and to discover holy freedom. Freedom in Christ means freedom to be fully human, with all the choices and responsibilities that entails, and with all the love that demands. How did the Mother Abbess put it in The Sound of Music? “A dream that will need all the love you can give/ Every day of your life, for as long as you live.” This is the Christian life.

And because this is the Christian life, and not just the life of a priest, this is your work, too: to nurture in other people freedom in Christ. True freedom doesn’t just mean we get to do whatever we feel like. True freedom comes with an awareness of our responsibilities to each other.

An image of God
(Source: Pixabay)
Our potter works with very willful clay. God will keep working to form us into something beautiful, even if we must shatter first and be thrown back into the furnace. As individuals, we are broken and re-formed into something new. But note that Jeremiah was not writing to individuals, but to the house of Israel. In the same way, the whole church is continually being broken and re-formed.

I believe that we are living in a time of the church being broken—not destroyed forever, but broken into pieces so that it can be cast into the furnace and re-formed into something more useful to a new situation. This doesn’t mean that everything we love about the church we grew up with must disappear. But it does mean that new things will spring up alongside the old. “Therefore,” says Jesus, “every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Jesus’ parable of the net catching fish, which goes alongside this saying, is a parable of judgment. When God looks at what the church has become, God goes through and sorts the good from the bad—not necessarily good and bad people, but good and bad aspects of our souls and our systems. The church is being invited, every single day of our Christian  lives, to leave behind that which destroys and to embrace that which leads to a deeper love. In this way, we and the potter work to shape our clay. But if we willful clay jars sabotage the potter’s hand, the potter can still start over with us.

None of us is ever lost. None of us is abandoned. God does not disown God’s children. Rather, God has created us to live in freedom—freedom to make our own decisions, our own mistakes, our own triumphs. God’s hand is always guiding the wheel, and no destruction is permanent. Today I pray that we will remember this throughout our lives, and live and act from the reassurance and joy that comes with drawing ever closer to God, the potter. Amen.

[1] Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace

Monday, July 18, 2016

Let the Story Read You

sermon preached at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler, Associate for Adult Formation
The Seventh Sunday after Pentectost: Year C, Proper 11, July 17, 2016

source: Wikimedia Commons (artist unknown, c.1000)
Three visitors appear from out of the desert, and Abraham drops everything and runs to meet them. Bear with me for a minute while I pose a few questions. Abraham’s effusive welcome is a little surprising. I wonder if his knack for hospitality is one reason God has chosen him? When have I welcomed strangers into my home and fed them well?

Meanwhile, Sarah is in the kitchen dutifully cooking a lot of food for these strangers. Does she question the necessity of this feast? Is it common practice for the husband to stand while his guests sit and eat? As a guest, that would make me nervous. Is it typical for the wife to wait in the tent until the guests have eaten? Are the guests angels? Why are there three? In the original Hebrew, there are all sorts of confusions about singular and plural here, and our English translations sometimes fudge the distinction in order to preserve the narrative. Could the three be God, the Holy Trinity, perceived in some way many centuries early? Or am I reading too much Christianity back into Judaism?

How does Sarah feel to be addressed by name as she listens at the tent flap? In a moment she will laugh at the thought that she could get pregnant at her age. But she is also afraid. I would be too!

This stream of questions is the way I usually begin writing a sermon. I’m not just reading the Bible. I’m letting the Bible read me, letting the story draw questions out of me, putting myself into the story in some way. Do you ever do the same? It doesn’t matter whether the questions have answers. When we approach the Bible, we must engage our imaginations.

Erasmus Quellinus II & Adriaen van Utrecht,
Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary (17th c.)
source: Wikimedia Commons
In today’s gospel, Mary is sitting, not standing, listening to her house guest Jesus. My first thought is that the meal is over, and Martha is in the kitchen, but she isn’t listening at the door. She’s up to her elbows in soap suds, fuming that her lazy sister isn’t helping her do the dishes. Have you ever been Martha?

Meanwhile, Mary is listening with rapt attention to Jesus, her teacher. But I don’t imagine her to be silent. I think she’s listening, incorporating what she hears into her own experience, and then asking questions and giving her own perspective on things. The dirty dishes are the last thing on her mind. This is far more important, and she’ll be happy to do some scrubbing later, even tomorrow morning. No, of course the text doesn’t say this—it’s coming from my imagination. Have you left the dishes until morning because you’d rather chat with your friends? Of course you have. So have I.

You know what, though? This makes Mary too sympathetic a character. I think Martha isn’t washing dishes—she’s preparing the meal. Nobody has eaten yet. A living room full of people has shown up unannounced, and somebody has to feed them.  No wonder Martha is frustrated. And then, when Martha triangulates Jesus into her frustration—“Don’t enable my sister’s laziness! Tell her to help!”—Jesus takes Mary’s side.

Why does Jesus honor Mary’s behavior? Mary seems either oblivious or just downright lazy. Or maybe—maybe! she’s a well-differentiated woman. Let all the male disciples forage through the kitchen themselves. Jesus doesn’t require women to do all the background work; he calls all of us to a life of attention to God. Mary is training her focus. Martha will understand that when she has to, and not one moment sooner.

Mary wants nothing more than to be close to God, and she sees that when she is with Jesus, this happens naturally. What image do you have of the kind of person who is close to God? Someone who is somehow not a sinner? What does this even mean? Someone like the seemingly perfect person in Psalm 15, for instance? Who leads a “blameless life” anyway? But maybe Mary, in her focused attention, has figured out closeness to God. I just bet Martha is the older sister, brought up to be responsible. Meanwhile the younger Mary listens and trusts—like a child. Perhaps she’s practically still a child herself.

Jesus makes several references to children being especially receptive to the Kingdom of God. They receive it naturally because they listen and trust. They have to listen and trust, because they know they are not self-reliant.

It’s when we get older that we fool ourselves into thinking we are self-made people. That’s when God begins to feel authoritative but distant, and Jesus sounds well-intentioned but naïve (“Love your enemies?” What?!), and the Holy Spirit becomes a nice idea, but it’s not like we’re going to become radicals and let all this change our lives. After all, we’re adults, and we’ve got stuff to do.

I mean, just this week I was busy co-leading the music station at Vacation Bible School, and taking care of my daughter, and setting up a vet appointment, and going to the gym, and getting an oil change, and planning adult formation events for fall, and inviting conversation about racism on Facebook, and collecting Pokéballs on the front steps of St. Paul’s. Write a sermon? Hah! That means listening before talking. And I don’t have time to listen. I only have time to talk.

Singing together
 Meanwhile, all week, God was assailing me with opportunities to listen, most of them coming from the children at Vacation Bible School. We weren’t planning to teach the five-year-olds the Zulu lyrics to “Walking in the Light of God,” but there was little Lydia singing with perfect pitch and rhythm: “Siyahamb’e ku khan yeni kwen kos!” Then there was Allie, holding a drumstick like a baton to conduct a group of young percussionists and inspiring others to follow her. There was Declan’s declaration about VBS—“I don’t like it; I love it!” —which we promptly turned into a song. All week long, children were sitting at our feet, and we tried to show Jesus to them through stories and songs and crafts and science experiments and games and food and opportunities for service.

On Thursday I said to one group of grade-school musicians, “Today’s theme is ‘God calms.’ I think God calms us through music. And I have a story to tell you about that.”

A boy jumped in: “I’ve heard this story before!”

I smiled and said, “Oh, I really doubt that!” And I went on: “One winter’s evening I was driving home, and a huge ice storm hit. My car was sliding all over the road …”

The boy piped up again, “And you sang this song over and over again to help you get home. And now you want to teach us that song.”

“Oh!” I said. “Yes, that’s exactly the story. Did I tell the story last year when I taught this same song?”

Several kids smiled and nodded. Well! Would you look at that. They were listening. They remembered my story from a whole year ago, which is a significant percentage of their lives. And several kids from the next group remembered the story as well!

At noon the same day, there was a girl whose parent was a little late picking her up, something that inevitably happened to a few kids every day this week. Most of the other kids had left, not all, but this girl was sitting by herself, so I sat next to her. She told me she was feeling very anxious about not having been picked up yet. She thanked me for the song, which she had been singing to herself over and over until I came and sat with her. I told her that I was certain one of her parents was on the way. I also asked, “Do you see how many adults there are here who care about you?” “Quite a few,” she admitted. And right about then, her mom showed up—only about seven minutes late. But now this girl knows that God calms us with music, and she is reminded that she’s part of a big family here at St. Paul’s.

Storytelling in the nave
Say what you like about children never listening. They are the best listeners we have. We can’t always tell because they multi-task so well. And they won’t always do what we wish they would do, but doing and listening are very different things. They do, indeed, listen and incorporate what they hear into their life experience. When they’re in Godly Play, they listen and incorporate. And when they’re in the pews, even on days when they seem like a vibrating bundle of energy disturbing your personal quiet space in a room of 300 people … they are listening and incorporating even then. Are you?

During Vacation Bible School, this room was the storytelling place. That’s what we do here: we tell stories. We don’t read stories to ourselves. We hear them out loud, the way they were meant to be received. So don’t read the story. Let the story read you.

More storytelling in the nave
Make connections. Sarah and Martha both prepared feasts, maybe 2000 years apart from each other. We’re about to do something similar 2000 years after that. It’s not a lot of food, but it’s enough to help us conceive of this much larger family of ours. It’s a feast of bread and wine and blessing. The blessing comes through us all being gathered together and listening attentively to God. There’s a longstanding tradition of the priest giving a blessing at the end of the service, but it’s not necessary, because we have already been blessed through Holy Communion. When we gather here, we are preparing to receive a feast. We are making time to listen and receive.

Martha didn’t understand that listening is its own kind of hard work. When we’re really listening, we’re not just passively receiving, but struggling to incorporate new ideas and experiences, including experiences that are not our own and never can be. Stories come to us not only through the Bible, but through other people in our lives, and through the news, and everything we hear, from every source, is filtered through somebody else’s narrative. It’s up to us to decide how to fit it into our own narrative. What do we hear? How will we allow it to change us? Christ is at work in the hard work of our listening. Prayer means listening before speaking, and this will change us.

There’s an old joke about a priest who is nothing like me, but whom I admire greatly. She is asked by a parishioner, “How often do you pray?” The priest replies, “One solid hour every morning.”

Shocked, the parishioner continues, “But what about those days when you have way too much to do to spend a whole hour in prayer?”

“Ah,” replies the priest. “On those mornings, I pray for two hours.”

Let the story read you. Listen and pray. Amen.