June 1, 2016
I've recently read through the book of Judith, a sort of hodge-podge of biblical historical fiction; it details the story of the defeat of Nebuchadnezzar, in this story king of the Assyrians, at the hands of a Jewish woman, Judith, who boldly deceives the sieging army, strengthened by prayer and fasting.
In reality, Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of the Babylonians during the time of the Babylonian exile of the Israelites from their homeland. As such, this book can be seen as a sort of interesting "alternate history" that demonstrates how the Israelites might have successfully have driven out their captors if they had "abandoned the way of their ancestors, and worshiped the God of heaven" (Jdt 5:8).
While the whole book is worth digging into, a certain relationship between prayer, confidence, and victory caught my eye. Judith is described to be a righteous protagonist, and throughout the story she is strengthened to action by her prayer, which takes on a particular character of praise; Judith frequently names many of the Lord's titles, declaring his past victories on behalf of her people, and declaring his dominion over all conflicts. He is the "God who crushes wars" (Jdt 16:2). I particularly noted her choice of verbiage: He crushes wars, not the enemy.
Our God is one who destroys conflict itself. He delivers his people, yes, but not to attain our selfish or imperfect ends. He does so to unite humanity under his banner of perfect love.
While we rarely find our towns besieged by enemy armies today, we can learn much from bringing the Lord into our daily conflicts. We can pray with the same confidence of author of the Memorare, the same confidence of Judith:
"Your strength is not in numbers, nor does your might depend of the powerful. You are God of the lowly, helper of those of little account, supporter of the weak, protector of those in despair, savior of those without hope.
Please, please, God of my father, God of the heritage of Israel, Master of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of all you have created, hear my prayer!" (Jdt 10:11-14).
Now that is praise. That is boasting in the Lord, a healthy, disinterested sort of confidence. Name the titles of the Lord, and let your fear melt away.
Praised be Jesus Christ, the eternal victor.