By Marty Troyer
What is the point of prayer when there is, as you all know, much to do in our world? We need more action, yes? Not more lazy people who sit back and do nothing. This week’s stunning revelation of leaked US military documents by Bradley Manning almost had me thinking about prayer in this way. After all, it was action that seemingly cast such a dark cloud over our current wars. As people of peace, this was a good step in slowing down the military industrial complex that is destroying our world. Is this than, an invitation to set aside our Christian distinctive and run into the arms of the activist community?
Perhaps not. The day after this story hit the news Congress passed yet another multi-billion dollar support package for our ongoing wars. The excitement of the previous day was short lived, if not gone altogether! Action is short lived. How can we sustain ourselves in the midst of this one step forward, two steps back world we live in? And war/peace is only ONE issue we care deeply about! What about all the energy we put into our loved ones lives, church, work, or other issues (the Gulf Oil spill) that seemingly yields no results?
Which brings me back to my title question, does prayer work? And if so, what do we mean by “work”? What is the result and benefit of prayer? The most energizing answer I’ve heard to this question comes from Barbara Brown Taylor, who answers her granddaughter’s quiry , “Oh, sweetie, of course it does. It keeps our hearts chasing after God’s heart. It’s how we bother God, and it’s how God bothers us back. There’s nothing that works any better than that.” That is precisely how I experience prayer: as a chasing after God’s heart. For it is in prayer that God orients our vision towards God’s plan for the world and kingdom coming on earth as in heaven. It is here, in prayer, that we are energized to be like Christ in forgiveness, radical hospitality, and justice. Prayer is that which sustains us for the work to which we have been called.
I am not competent to say whether or not God “answers” our prayers for loved ones, or for peace, or for anything. But I have experienced over and again God’s pestering loving call through prayer to not let a person or issue be forgotten. Across the vast separation of Houston, I find it particularly meaningful to pray for you each every week as a way to enact my care for you, and as a way to connect with your lives when we are apart.
Within the month of August I want to offer you two tools to keep you chasing after the heart of God. First, this Sunday you will find in your church Mailbox the August Prayer Guide for Faith and Learning, distributed from Mennonite Education Agency. This guide invites you to connect with God’s passion to disciple faithful young adult Christians through Christian education.
Second, you are invited to join me August 15-21for the Week of Prayer for our Children and Youth. We are invited to join dozens of other Houston area churches to pray for specific needs of Houston youth, such as Diversity, Poverty and Food Insecurity, Public Education, Human Trafficking, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, Childhood Obesity, and Advocacy Works. A Faith Summit for interested people is being held on Thursday August 12, I will be in attendance as a sponsoring faith leader. If you would like to attend with me, please let me know.
Does prayer work? Yes, absolutely! It keeps us connected to the things God cares about, and it sustains us in our work! Prayer does not take the place of action any more than action can supersede our call to prayer. So whether it be prayers for peace, prayers for loved ones, or prayers for our city, let us continue boldly to pray as Jesus taught, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” May God continue to bother you, as you chase after the heart of God! AMEN.
Now, instead of talking about prayer, I’m going to grab my prayer book and head into the sanctuary!