“I hope this donation of thoughts and prayers is as effective in your re-election campaign as it is in stopping mass shootings.”
A picture of a check for the amount of “Thoughts and Prayers,” made out to an ardent, 2nd Amendment quoting senator with this note attached, frequents the internet after mass shootings in the US. There have been 200 mass shootings so far this year (that I’m aware of) so I’ve seen it a lot.
The arguments on every side of the gun issue never change. They sound like a lot of shouting and posturing with no progress. I am a Christian. I am a Christian who prays. I even wrote a book on prayer. But I understand why people are exhausted with “Thoughts and Prayers” as a response to the horrible, changeable things happening around us. I’m exhausted too, because prayer doesn’t work. Or, at least, prayer doesn’t work the way how many of us were taught or practice it or expect it to.
Prayer for change doesn’t work when I treat it like my Amazon wish list. It is not just a way to keep track of things that catch my eye that I can’t afford. It is not something to share with generous family members who might treat me with something on special occasions. Prayer doesn’t work if it is just one more way I sit passively waiting for someone, somewhere, to do something, anything to make things better. It is useless to fold my hands and close my eyes and expect a miraculous intervention from heaven if I intend to remain passive. If I am unwilling to participate in God’s response, my prayers are about as helpful as that check made out to the senator.
It makes no sense to pray for safety and protection if what I most want to be protected is something created to kill and steal and destroy.
If I pray for forgiveness while clinging to my grudges and justifying my biases, nothing will change. Nothing will change in me or the world around me. My life will only work to sustain the harmful systems and structures that perpetuate imbalance and dysfunction in the family of God.
If I pray for provision for people in need while overindulging at every meal, what am I praying for?
If I pray for guidance but act only according to my will, whose lead am I following?
Prayer doesn’t work. Prayer doesn’t work until I am willing to actively participate in the transforming work of God in, around, and through me.
I intend to keep praying.
God, may my prayers be more than worthless checks. Thank you for your patience and grace as I learn to live more in your likeness and image.