You probably know this iconic photograph, Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam), taken in 1932 to promote the Rockerfeller Centre’s new skyscraper:
But did you know that, for more than seventy years, this internationally recognised photo was often either attributed to “unknown” or wrongly attributed to Lewis Hine?
It wasn’t until 2003, a quarter of a century after his death, that Charles C. Ebbets was credited as the most likely creator of this artwork.
To this day, however, we still don’t know the names of all the workmen it features, nor do we know the exact contribution each one made in this now-famous construction work.
It’s hard to believe there are so many ‘invisible men’ behind such a famous picture.
Much of what we do each day – particularly in this period of isolation – goes unseen. We might feel that we are, or have become, invisible!
This can be true whether we are ‘just another face’ in a busy workplace – like a hospital, a factory, a supermarket – or whether we are remaining at home.
This invisible feeling can leave us with the impression that our efforts do not have value.
In the above short video clip, Nicole Johnston talks about this invisibility, about how the great cathedrals of Europe were built by unknown hands.
This is true throughout history. Slavery and oppression were overcome not through the work of one individual, but through the slow, steady dedication of many over an extended period. Moon landings weren’t achieved by astronauts alone. Scores of mathematicians, engineers and scientists worked tirelessly to achieve this feat, generally with little individual recognition. Individual names are forgotten, yet we remain in awe of these collective achievements, many years after they happened.
As we face the COVID crisis today, it is worth remembering just how much essential work is being done by unseen hands. It is also worth remembering that, no matter how ‘invisible’ you might feel, God sees.
Remember how, in Genesis 16:13, Hagar refers to the Lord God as “El Roi” – God-who-sees me. God saw her, a slave-girl alone and unhappy, pregnant and in precarious circumstances.
Remember that El Roi, God-who-sees-you, is with you. Even when you’re invisible!
He knows your troubles, he sees all that you do, all that you suffer, all your worries and hopes and dreams. Remember his perfect love for you – in the words of Augustine of Hippo:
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
God cares. Even if it seems that everyone else is too busy, too preoccupied, too far away. Remember these words from 1 Peter 6-7:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
“we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
As our own ‘invisible hands’ are at work, so are the ‘invisible hands’ of God Almighty.
It can be hard to see or to fully comprehend how the Lord is working, particularly in challenging times like these.
As we follow the news, our faith can be tested as we become acutely aware of the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world:
Please feel free to stop and add personal prayers here
We might feel angry and upset at the injustice and distress around us.
Indeed, the world might seem to be taunting us with the question, “Where is your God?”
Even though our world is filled with sadness and worry right now, even though we cannot see exactly what God is doing, we must not lose sight of the facts: he is all-powerful, all-knowing and wholly good.
In a time when the world is asking “Where is your God?”, we can and must continue to rejoice in the safe knowledge that his will shall prevail, and his name will be glorified.
Music Suggestion: I find it comforting to remember that, all around the world, our brothers and sisters in Christ are standing with us in prayer. If you need a little reminder of that, check out this playlist – How Great is Our God in Many Languages
Pray the words of Psalm 136.
Music Suggestion: The God Who Sees Me
Abba-Father, you are El-Roi, God-who-sees-us.
Thank you for seeing us,
For loving each one of us as if there were only one of us,
For seeing all that your children do, all that they endure, for seeing the worth of their efforts, no matter whether they feel invisible or are craving a moment alone in peace and rest.
Lord, thank you that when we say we’re okay but we’re not, you alone know the truth.
Thank you that we can be real with you, even we don’t want to burden others in this difficult time, because you already know the truth.
Thank you for knowing our weaknesses, our shortcomings even before we confess them to you
[PERSONAL PRAYER OF CONFESSION]
Lord, thank you for hearing our prayers, for being our dearest and most loving friend in this time of confinement;
Thank you for meeting each one of us where we’re at, as our diverse circumstances make this common experience a different reality for each one of us.
Yes, thank you for accepting us as we are, sinners in need of your love and guidance.
Thank you for strengthening and healing and helping us.
You are our refuge, our rock, our Redeemer. We place all our trust in you; we stand in awe of your goodness and power.
We are thankful that the resurrection power which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the tomb can and will overcome this period of global adversity.
We are thankful, Lord, that there is nothing you can’t do,
No set of circumstances in which you do not work for the good of those who love you.
Jehovah-Jirah, you are our provider, we remember your provision in the past throughout our lives and throughout your Word, thank you for providing for all of your children in this time.
[REMEMBER THOSE IN NEED OF PROVISION]
Jehovah-Rapha, you are our healer, we remember your miracles and thank you for healing the sick.
[REMEMBER THOSE IN NEED OF HEALING]
Jehovah-Shalom, you are our peace, we thank you for bringing peace to all those who love you
[REMEMBER THOSE IN NEED OF PEACE]
You are El-Shaddai, LORD, please show your mighty power in this situation, please use today’s circumstances to draw your children closer to you, to bring glory to your Holy Name.
[REMEMBER YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST, FRIENDS AND FAMILY]
In the precious name of Jesus Christ your Son we pray,
Music Suggestion: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
Get ready all the things you usually have handy when taking time to pray – perhaps a pen and paper, a hot drink or a bite to eat, comfort items like a blanket/cushion/mat.
Pray for all the “invisible hands” involved in bringing these things to your home: from farmers and bakers, factory workers, delivery drivers, store workers, right through, perhaps, to whoever washed your cup!
Thank God for all the invisible work done by the following people:
Ask God to:
You cannot see the foundation of a house. However, you can certainly see the effects of a ‘foundation fail’!
(Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)
I am thankful that Jesus is our invisible and unshakable foundation and that his generous love and sacrifice keeps us from turning into a bunch of ‘leaning towers’!
Music Suggestion: Kwake Yesu Nasimama (On Christ the Solid Rock I Will Stand) or Rock of Ages
Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isaiah 28:16 ESV)
Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:13-16 ESV)
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:4-6 ESV)
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV)
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11 ESV)
Loving Lord Jesus,
Thank you for being our solid rock, our living, loving, active foundation, our cornerstone;
Thank you for holding us up.
Your word tells us, Lord, that we are your holy temple here on earth,
We dedicate ourselves to you,
We ask you to please show us our role in holding up this structure – the spiritual house you have built here on earth – alongside our brothers and sisters, and we ask you to give us the wisdom, strength and courage to carry it out.
Lord, please hold us together as one whole, one structure, one body, even now as we find ourselves physically far apart.
In your name we pray, as we go in peace to love and serve you,