Prayer is for the pray-er. Prayer opens up the pray-er to God the same way talking opens up the griever to healing. And being opened up for God to change us is the first step to bringing God’s will to a hurting world.
I understand the growing cynicism to constant prayer vigils following mass shootings. They have become a part of the routine that President Obama talked about after the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. The only thing worse than praying is praying rotely with vapid cliches.
Samantha Bee is right–actually, James was right–faith without works is dead. And the spiritual community has so much to offer at this season in history. But as we light candles and prop up flowers, it is time that our faith and our praying lead to change. The change starts within: to rid ourselves of the fear of change, to rid ourselves of hatreds and dehumanizations, to rid ourselves of apathy and callousness and empty words of hope.
How then shall we pray?
Here is a call to prayer I wrote used this evening at a prayer vigil. I think it sums up what I think prayer can do for the ending of violence in the world.
Let us bind our hearts together in prayer.
We pray not to change God, but to be changed ourselves.
We pray not to change the world, but to become the change that the world needs.
We pray to recognize the divinity within those who suffered and died in Orlando.
We pray to relinquish any hatred we have toward anyone else.
We pray to confess anything we have done to dismiss or devalue our gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans neighbors.
We pray to recognize that the image of God is found in people whose religion and ethnicity is different than ours.
We pray to feel the pain of families in Orlando burying their loved ones with shock and despair on their hearts.
We pray to feel the fear within the LGBT and that we may work for their protection around the world.
We pray to also recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in healing communities and people.
We pray as a witness the heroic measures taken by law enforcement and medical personnel.
We pray for the courage to follow God’s lead and build a safer, more peaceful world.
We pray in song and in silence. We pray in art and letter-writing. We pray as one people, united through a common humanity that transcends all barriers and divisions.
O God, both known and mysterious, help us as we pray…
I pray because, like many others, I don’t know what else to do. I pray to transcend the bickering that has overtaken the nation’s dialogue on violence, guns…almost everything else. I pray to reach a level of connectivity with victims. I pray to ascertain some sort of understanding of perpetrators. I pray for wisdom to help inch the world closer to peace.
So, yeah, prayer is not a good substitute for action. But I think prayer that is true, humble, and honest can play a vital role in the healing of the nations.