Save Your Prayers

stop praying2

It must be me, but frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing people say “you are in our thoughts and prayers.” It seems that those words are the thing to say these days. Those words are said after just about every crisis or disaster in this country. News anchors and commentators say them. Politicians say them. Preachers say them. I am sure that they are all well-meaning people, but those words have become a cliché.

I suspect that God is tired of hearing those words, too.

And I am quite certain that the people we so readily say that we are praying for are really tired of those words as well:

We pray for hungry people instead of skipping our second latte of the day and buying them lunch.

We pray for a friend battling depression instead of sitting with that person for a few minutes and really listening.

We pray for the families of murdered black men instead of speaking directly to the institutionalized racism in law enforcement and to the darkness of our own hearts.

We pray for the victims of sexual assault instead of dealing with the misogyny, sexism, and pornography that devalue young women in the eyes of both young and old men.

We pray for the members of the LGBTQ community when they are terrorized instead of demanding that churches and other institutions fully affirm their humanity and celebrate their inclusion.

We pray for innocent American Muslims who endure violence instead of calling out ignorant bigotry from our preachers and politicians that breeds hatred.

We pray for the victims of another mass shooting instead of fully engaging in the battle for legislation that would make guns and assault rifles more difficult to purchase.

Well, stop praying already!

Save your prayers, for heaven’s sake!

STOP!

Stop tossing off hollow words to the heavens when you are standing on the bloody ground of a hurting world.

Stop being on the front lines of suffering and calling for some invisible backup you hope will come to the rescue like the Seventh Cavalry in those old western movies.

Stop acting as if so much of the terrible stuff passing in front of you is beyond your ability to do something.

Stop feeling so good about yourself for feeling bad.

Compassion alone is useless. We need to get our hands dirty. Praying for God to move while we sit on our collective derrieres is not redemptive religion. It is empty religion.

This is not about passing the buck to God; this is about realizing the potential to love and to act that is in each one of us.

US?

Yes, us.

We have been given life and breath and gifts and resources and abundance, and if we stop hoarding them so much, we may soon find that the space around us becomes less and less horrible.

If we dare to step outside of our laziness and selfishness and apathy, we may find that we are no longer content to just pray. We may feel burdened to become the answer to prayer; to become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

If we stop asking God to do what we are already wired and equipped to do, our prayers will change. Those prayers will not be delivered to the heavens above, but to the mirrors that reflect our images here and now on earth.

If there is a prayer to be prayed, let it be the one attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, which in part reads: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”

John F. Kennedy said it so well in his 1961 Inaugural Address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His [God’s] blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” (The italics are mine, not Kennedy’s)

So pray less and do more!

Yes, I am sick and tired of hearing people say “you are in our thoughts and prayers.” I hope you are as well.

[Thanks to blogger John Pavlovitz for the inspiration for this piece]

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