Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pray Tell

What is with public prayer and elected officials lately? Two recent news items make mockery of prayer as a spiritual exercise. There is the stupid law recently passed in Illinois requiring a moment of silence each morning, thus legislating a time for payer that is already protected by law. And we've got Governor Sonny Perdue leading his assembled masses in prayer for rain. Yes, rain. In drought-stricken, water-wasting Georgia, they are resorting to praying for the heavens to open and water to fall.

There are so many things wrong with this activity. I scarcely know where to begin. Practically speaking, a public prayer assembly would be the very last action I'd want my governor to take in a drought. I want him to be staying up nights with conservation officials months in advance of the current crisis, when it is clear that a drought is happening, to determine how to head it off.

But that wasn't Governor Perdue's approach. Lake Lanier, Atlanta's drinking fountain, has been withering away all summer. Yet, "(a)ll summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains blithely sprayed, football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. In early October, on an 81-degree day, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million gallon mountain of snow."

The state didn't manage to take significant action until late September when it finally banned outdoor water use. I have no window into how God might work. But I highly doubt She'd be terribly inclined to dump rainwater at the request of such foolish, wasteful people. No God would be that stupid.

Which brings me to the spiritual aspects of such an exercise: God as Keeper of the candy store door. What an immature approach to faith, asking for God to supply our wants when we have the means to meet our needs. And there's the age-old question of if God did answer prayers in this way, why would She choose to "answer" Governor Perdue's prayer but not the prayers of those in similarly waterless Tennessee? Save woman X from breast cancer but not woman Y? What, Tennessee is full of sinner, and woman Y full of sin so their collective prayers are not worthy?

The concept of prayer as a way of asking for stuff, even big important stuff, eludes me, in spite of its Biblical presence. I can't reconcile a loving Creator with a God who would capriciously answer some prayers and not others. I don't believe that those whose prayers aren't answered are deemed unworthy. I don't believe that prayers are answered by God at all.

Prayer is a fragile thread that connects me to something far More than myself. It weaves community among those who share it. It's an unending conversation in a language I can only begin to understand, with Someone I'll never see and am not always quite sure is there.

Do I bring my concerns, petty and large into the conversation? Sure. I'm so human that I can't help be focused on me, Me, ME! But I have no expectation of the fairy wand wave, the key magically unlocking the door to the candy store, the slate of my poor behavior wiped clean with no effort on my part. My faint hope is that between the skills I was created with and the talents you were given, maybe together we can figure it all out.

Where is God in all of that? God is in the part of me that patiently listens to you when you complain a little too long about that thing that bugs you about your husband. God is in the part of you that unbegrudgingly offers to get out of bed early to take my son to school when my car is dead. On a much larger scaler, God is in those environmentalists who've been bugging Governor Perdue for months now to DO something about the water shortage.

What's the point of praying when you aren't listening for the answer, Governor Perdue?



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