Pray, Let it Be Silent.

Prayer Lapel Pin?

I, for one, am tired of being told to pray for people.

Wait.  Before you misunderstand me–I’m not against prayer.  I really would like all beings to be free from suffering.

(Okay, sorry, that sounds Buddhist;  let me broaden it.)

I really am not against–let me rephrase again–I am actively in favor of prayer:  religious prayer, private prayer, meditative prayer,  even group prayer (in a religious or quasi-religious setting, or as part of a shared ritual or genuine uprising of community emotion).

But I am getting really tired of political-speak prayer, tired of politicians asking or telling me about prayer.

One more backtrack--I don’t mean prayer in the midst of crisis especially the brief but heartfelt, “our thoughts and prayers.”)  And I don’t mean prayer or other spiritual references by a political figure at a memorial service or a religious or quasi-religious event, such as President Obama at the memorial service for the Arizona victims.

Such references to scripture and prayer in such a setting and moment can offer true and appropriate solace, comfort, poetry.

(I don’t even have a problem with prayer breakfasts, if seeking wisdom and accompanied by, you know, marmalade.)

What I’m balking at are prayers, and calls for prayer, used as major portions of political speeches and commentary.  (Okay, in order to be clear, I guess I’m talking about Palin here, and Beck, and others who seem to use prayer frequently to make political points.)

I am disturbed, in part, by the feeling that the God invoked is swayed by numbers–as if He or She makes decisions by petition, popularity contest, votes.  This is a notion that I find insulting both of God and of those whose prayers are not somehow answered (i.e. lots of people, lots of times.)

Please, I really am not saying people or a politician shouldn’t pray for a loved one or stranger, for the country or the planet. But the ubiquitous political use of prayer in a non-spiritual and politicized setting diminishes its gravity; references to prayer begin to feel like a litmus test, a new form of flag pin, one more codeword.

I pray not.  (Amen.)

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5 Comments on “Pray, Let it Be Silent.”

  1. Charles Says:

    I’ve always held to the idea that every prayer is answered, just not always in the way the person who is praying wishes for it to be. As finite humans we can’t always see what is actually in our own best interests and seek the quick gratification over the long view of things. God not being restricted by time or space sees the big picture rather than just the small corner that we can see. I do agree though that God doesn’t take a poll as to which prayer he answers one way or another. He doesn’t have to. He already knows who wants/needs what and when. He is after all omniscient.

    • manicddaily Says:

      Yes. I guess what troubles me (and I’m not writing now about politicians or current events) is the feeling I get when some talk of prayer that they have a notion of a kind of numbers game, that there would be some better answer to prayer if more people were involved, even if the people didn’t know the object of their prayers etc. I find this notion really very troubling.

      • Charles Says:

        I get what you mean I think. We live in a world where we feel entitled to x. X being whatever it is we desire to have at the moment and along with that comes the idea that if enough people make enough noise it will happen quicker. Sometimes a bit of noise is a good thing as it can promote social change, but more often it’s a case of people wanting something that they don’t necessarily need, but just want. And human patience has never been very good. I think it also goes back to the world we live in today. We expect instant gratification, and tend to whine when it isn’t forthcoming. I try to keep positive myself. No matter how bad I think I might have it in a given situation there is bound to be someone else who has it worse. As an example I have Type 1 Diabetes, which isn’t fun, but at least it’s treatable unlike many other medical problems. People in general tend to forget what they already have, and complain when what they want doesn’t materialize fast enough. And of course while praying for whatever it is to happen can’t do any harm (I don’t think), and it no doubt makes the friends and family of those who need prayers feel better to be able to do something, even if it is just a prayer, we should keep it in mind that God keeps his own council as to when and how prayers are answered.

      • manicddaily Says:

        Hi Charles, I think you are much more thoughtful about this than my post! Certainly, it is very hard to keep a sense of gratitude. A friend wrote me that a friar he knows says that there are two main prayers–help me help me help me and thanks thanks thanks. (I’m probably better at the first one!)
        AT any rate, take care. K.

  2. Charles Says:

    Hi K,
    Thanks for the compliment. I’ve had to learn patience to a degree as well as acceptance since 1999 when I developed the Diabetes, and some of my insight (for lack of a better term) is due to early training as well. I attended a private Baptist Church run school for several years when young. Early training does tend to stick around (sometimes at least). lol. You take care as well.

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