If You Don’t Like It Leave The Room

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that praying at government meetings was permissible. In my experience prayers in public settings are complicated. Either they are so ceremonial they are empty of meaning and power or they become subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) attempts to cover political positions with quasi-religious authority.  Justice Kennedy’s advice for atheists and others who object to such prayers is “just leave the room.” My initial response is that anyone who takes their faith seriously and takes prayer seriously should also consider leaving the room.

At its best, prayer is either a deep listening for the promptings of God which we discern when we are quiet long enough and listen carefully enough or it is the collective concerns of a gathered community yearning to be faithful which means that our prayers move from words to actions, and from concern to compassion and kindness and caring. Using public prayer as a cover or a club only erodes our religious voice in a culture where that voice is barely being heard as it is.

If we decide to stay and to not leave the room maybe what those of us who are asked to pray are to do is to use that moment to thank elected officials for their service and remind them of their responsibility to be leaders and to care for all in the community, especially those who are too easily overlooked and too often without a voice.

Sometimes All I Can Do Is Pray

Earthquakes are rattling Nicaragua. I have friends there. Many of them. I have helped to build homes there. I hope those homes are still standing. The people I know and more that I don’t are being told to sleep outside tonight so if another quake hits they won’t be asleep in their beds  and risk having their house collapse on them and their families. I will be sleeping safe and sound in my bed tonight. Sometimes all I can do is pray.

The mother of someone I know and care about is battling cancer…again.
Sometimes all I can do is pray.

A picture of a little girl curled up in a ball makes me want to turn away. What can I do for refugees, wherever they are, who have fled bombs and bullets or who have lost parents or children in endless often senseless fighting.  Today I am particularly mindful of those who have fled the civil war in Syria. Sometimes all I can do is pray.

I have known them for nearly twenty five years. They were about my age now when we first met.  Now they are older and they and their children struggle against and struggle with the reality and the concerns and the needed lifestyle changes that come with growing old. Sometimes all I can do is pray.

And, there is more.
My list goes on.
Sometimes all I can do is pray.
I understand that prayer is not magic.
It is not hocus pocus that suddenly makes bad things good or wrong things right, and it does not miraculously do or undo what I should have done or should not have done.
At its core, my prayer is my remembering.
My remembering there is a concern and a connectedness that links us all together.
My remembering that love and strength and encouragement and care and concern and joy while expressed here does, indeed, stretch to there.
My remembering my desire and my responsibility to wrap some part of who I am and some part of what I know and name as God around the you I hold in my heart and mind in this moment. Sometimes all I can do is pray.

Does it matter?
Because the moment I pray is the moment I remember that the world is bigger and my life is bigger than the particular concerns I have in this moment and the shrink wrapped life I, too easily, live.
Does it make a difference?
To you?
I hope so.
But I know it makes a difference because, at the very least, it makes me different.