A Roman centurion—the commander of one hundred soldiers—amazed Jesus with his faith. He had a beloved servant at home who was dying. The centurion had heard of and perhaps had even witnessed Jesus’ power to heal and sought him out. When Jesus heard about the dying servant, he readily agreed to make his way to the centurion’s home to minister to him.
I have been ministering the last year in a state prison, to women who are in transit. Some are on their way to units where they will be serving their sentences, some are about to be paroled, others are transferring from one unit to another, and some are returning to their units after receiving medical treatment. I never know who or how many will be there.
The corrections officer invites them to come out of their cement boxes for Bible study. Most of them, even if they have only a tiny bit of hunger for God, will come and join us. Why not? Worship and Bible study appeals to more than lonely isolation. As they shuffle in, they often seem disoriented, frightened, and weary. I can only imagine the things they have experienced in their lives.
At each meeting, I remind them that the presence of God penetrated those walls and bars and gates long before we arrived. We acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit, the one who makes himself felt and known when his people gather to worship and fellowship in Jesus’ name.
I ask the women if they believe that God knows where they are while in transit. Has he lost track of them? Does he know who they are, how they got there, what they need? Are the walls and bars and gates any impediment to his love and care for them? They shake their heads, quietly acknowledging that he never loses sight of them. Isaiah cried out to Jerusalem, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” (Is.49:14-15). Most of the women I meet there are mothers, so this hits home with them, as it does with me.
God exists both within and beyond the limitations of time and space that we inhabit. We can pray for a sick relative on the other side of the world. If we believe like the centurion and “say the word from where we are,” his power goes forth faster than the speed of light. What happens when our faith hits its target is up to him. I encourage all of us to do this with confidence that Jesus hears and sends his healing power. This is the kind of faith that pleases him. And because we believe, things happen.