The Political Potency of Prayer
my (surprisingly popular) post last week prompted by some of the points of annoyance I encounter in my calling as a pastor/preacher, I thought I would return to Eugene Peterson's "The Contemplative Pastor" as part of my daily devotions for a wee while... And a few lines in I found a whole collection of thoughts piling up which required more mature reflection... so in the absence of any ability on my part to do such a thing, I thought I'd blog on a few of them... beginning, as we should with the discipline of prayer...
"Prayer is a subversive activity. It involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime..."
In other words, prayer is not just an act of personal piety or a corporate ritual, but is a profoundly revolutionary political activity. To continue my thoughts in yesterday's post, not only is prayer a pledge of allegiance to a kingdom that is not of this world, but it is also our means of communicating with our commander in chief... That is why the public act of prayer at Belfast City Hall last month and the continuing 11:11 prayer initiative are not just mere gestures in the face of a hopeless situation... They are the very germ of hope itself, but, if taken to their ultimate conclusion are potentially much more unsettling than ANY flag protest, because the peace we pray for is not just peace and quiet so that Belfast and Northern Ireland can return to business as usual, making money but turning a blind eye to sectarian division, and a political and economic system that marginalises entire communities. The peace we pray for is the shalom of God, where righteousness is the rule of the day, not self-righteousness or respectability... where justice reigns, Biblical justice not simplistic retribution and certainly not judgementalism.
Last night I was briefly at a meeting looking at the direction of mission in our local Methodist District... I had to leave because of a migraine (not, I hasten to add brought on by the meeting...), and our District Superintendent, Heather Morris, began by emphasising the place of prayer in the mission of the church... She drew on a quote of Henry Ford (who, despite being a somewhat ethically suspect individual, did say some clever things):
"Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it."
Heather went on to say that Christians might easily substitute "prayer" for "thinking" in that quote and it would make even more sense...
Prayer is fundamental to everything... my ministry as a pastor... the mission of the church... But it requires a discipline we do not always dedicate to it. But if we do, the difference it potentially makes in our lives, the life of the church and the world around us is incalculable. Peterson continues:
"[As we pray,] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God's sovereignty. Every natural tie of family and race, every willed commitment to person and nation is finally subordinated to the rule of God."
As Jesus taught us to pray:
"Your kingdom come, your will be done..."
and start in me...