Maybe you’ve said this today: “I’m getting so tired of people saying ‘Pray for Dallas.’ ”
Pray for Syria.
Pray for Paris.
Pray for reconciliation between the police and African-American communities.
Another atrocity, in another city. Something else to grieve over, to make us sick. To make us doubt that hope makes any sense. We pray, we talk, we go about our lives, until it happens all over again. It’s not changing, we say. It’s not getting better, we say.
Lots of us are starting to ask, then…What’s the point?
We can submit to those condemning voices that accuse us of “praying for ____” because we are unwilling to do any “more” than that. We can choose to give in to the denial of prayer’s power, that after all, really we are just talking to the air and all our emotional turmoil is simply a by-product of a privileged, ineffectual, toothless life. We can wilt before the (often quite legitimate) anger of others who are living far more difficult lives of largely unnoticed injustices, who accuse pray-ers of hiding behind these well-intentioned wishes as a self-soothing lotion of inaction.
We can do all those things, and in the process we will lose one of the greatest gifts, tools, and privileges which we as humans possess.
Either we choose to believe in simply what may be seen with our eyes, or we choose to believe that there is a Divine and all-encompassing God who chooses to partner with us in the physical AND the spiritual realms. We may choose to believe that these physical acts of violence, thsee words of ignorance and rascism, in the news are simply human nature – but in this we commit a grievous error. These acts are backed by spiritual forces, forces which run contrary to the spirit of peace and constructive, mutual support which God desires for every last one of us.
Our prayers are our mysterious partnership with God’s efforts to restore order and completeness to a world otherwise terrorized by the abrasive protestations of evil.
It is true that simply “praying” over recent events, without any faith that such words have any effect, is worse than a lie. That type of prayer *is* ineffective, *is* self-soothing and selfish, and does *not* press us forward towards God’s vision of shalom.
But our prayers of faith – however doubting, however tentative, however feeble they might seem – said with the smallest grains of faith move spiritual forces into position. These types of prayers also move us into greater compassion and harmony with one another, a change which might then ripple through our families, communities, and societies, and is so very needed. Our frustration is real, and the changes seem glacial in their pace. But if we claim the faith of a Christ follower, we must choose what we believe on this matter.
Either our prayers are effective…or they aren’t. Either our faith is true…or it is a lie.