Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When 'Pray For Orlando' Rings Hollow

In addition to being a community advocate, I also serve a United Methodist congregation  (East Tenth UMC, Indy). To this point, I have avoided using "prayer" in response to the massacre of gay citizens in Orlando. Don't count me with those who choose offer prayers and hope things get better somehow. They won't--not without nonviolently-focused anger and deliberate actions that bring change.

I grieve that "prayer" has come to mean, for some, a passive reaction or an excuse or cover up for inaction. As such, prayer rings hollow and is foreign to the heritage of Biblical faith.

But in the best tradition in the church, when we say "pray for... [a person or a financial need or a problem]," we know it means: "Respond! Become an answer to the prayer request. Help out. Open your wallet. Visit the sick. Share food. Don't acquiesce to injustice. Stand with those who are being persecuted. Make a difference."

We believe this is how God and people of faith have acted in the past and how we reflect God's mercy and justice today. To do less simply reflects functional atheism.

If you want to pray for wisdom in how best to act in response to tragedies like Orlando, do so (this is the essence of the practice of contemplative prayer). Just don't not respond redemptively. Don't just offer prayers. Make your life a prayer.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA