Sunday, July 10, 2016

2016.07.10 Pray, Pray, Pray, and So?

All over the internet, on social media, and in all our email boxes there are calls for prayer. Our Episcopal Presiding Bishop has issued a particularly elegant call and prayer for our common humanity from the Book of Common Prayer. It is beautiful. Every person and all prayers are earnest and honest in their spiritual desiring. How they get winnowed is not my business.

So why do I feel uninspired? I feel frankly impotent, though I do pray for peace and an end to the escalation of violence. I even feel a little ashamed because I’m not on board somehow or I’m privileged not to be afraid. I’m not beseeching, not weeping, not agonizing. Am I cold-hearted? Is God dead? What does God do? Anything?  

I learned prayer as a child when I talked endlessly to God, instructing God that many things should change for the betterment of my little world, and specifically that God should end the dominance of the martini glass in our house. God did nothing, didn't change a damn thing outside me. I prayed anyway. It made me feel better inside, more able to seize life as it was and  never stop praying anyway—just to know my heart’s desires and to feel God’s listening. That formed my image of God: omnipresent but certainly not omnipotent.

I wonder if God is who we think God is—eternal almighty-ness?  Or is this a stereotype to whom we too often bow?

I am inspired by this prayer, written in the diaries of Etty Hillesum. She died at Auschwitz at 29.

Tonight for the first time I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me. I shall promise You one thing, God, just one very small thing: I shall never burden my today with cares about tomorrow, although that takes some practice. Each day is sufficient unto itself. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that You cannot help us, that we help You to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little You, God in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend your dwelling place inside us to the last.   (Etty Hillesum, Essential Writings Maryknoll: Orbis Books 2009 p. 59)

To this kind of prayer I say Amen, and to this God I pray without ceasing.