There was a lot of anger the other day. It is understandable. You don’t need me to recite statistics to you about shootings, gun control, acts of violence, terrorism, etc. No matter where or who we are, it’s out there and we are all aware of it.
One thing that got under my skin was backlash about prayer. Perhaps you’ve seen this picture.
What irks me is that “thoughts and prayers” seem to equal doing nothing. At least that’s my interpretation. Yours may be different, and as always, what I’m saying/writing here is simply my opinion. I am NOT a theologian. I’m not an ordained anything. I am just me…and I believe in prayer.
To me, prayer is active, not passive. Prayer offers something when you can offer nothing. Prayer works, but it is not a magic wand or a button that you push that makes things right (or wrong). Prayer is not a wish. Prayer is a dialog; prayer is speaking as well as listening. And, I believe prayer is a beginning and not an end.
I prayed before I started to write. Prayed about what I should say and how I should say it. Doing this opened my mind to some new/different thoughts and opinions. Like perhaps people don’t equate prayer with doing nothing, but equate the people who were seemingly ONLY praying publicly/socially with doing nothing. I totally get that. I mean, it says in Matthew 6: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others… And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
For me, praying, whether it be alone or with others, is the beginning of something. For example when tragedy strikes, my first thought is to pray for those effected. To communicate my thoughts/feelings to God. To send love, warmth and comfort out into the universe. By sending my “cosmic comfort” (for lack of a better term) out to those experiencing a tragedy, I am also comforting myself. This IS acting; this IS doing something, but it is just PART of the prayer process.
Prayer is also listening. For me it is listening to God; for someone else perhaps it is listening to that little voice inside of you. Listening is what will guide you. Listening it what takes you to the next step of the prayer; what moves you to further action. For example, listening can tell you to make a financial donation to an organization to help those in need; it can encourage you to communicate with local/national/global leaders; it can move you towards becoming involved with groups that support those in need. This part of prayer takes you down the path of positive action.
Prayer is not meant to be something that you do once and then move on. Prayer may be simple, but it is NOT easy. Prayer is a call to action. Action SHOULD be part of prayer. And while many of us may think the action has to be NOW, it doesn’t HAVE to be.
Let me share a somewhat personal story as it relates to prayer. Last year, a friend lost her son to suicide. There was/is nothing I can do to change that. But when I heard the news, I could pray for her, for her son and for her family. I could (I hope) provide some comfort to her with my prayers and with her knowledge (I hope) that I am here for her whenever she might need me. My prayers lead me to check in on her and offer assistance when/if she needed it. There was some small immediate action on my part, but my prayers did not stop after the funeral. They continued. I’ve put my love and comfort out, but I’ve also listened. As I result, I am participating in a community walk this month to raise awareness as well as to support those who have been left behind. This is part of the prayer “process”. (And if you’d like to support me and my family, here’s my walk page.)
I encourage ANYONE who is moved to do so to pray; fully and completely. To put your thoughts, feelings, concerns, etc. out to God, the Universe or whatever you might call it. To do so actively and to listen to that “small still voice” and let it guide you to action.
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than four years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.