Of Action and Prayer

I ended Of Prayer and Action rather abruptly. Some might even believe I ended it in a heavy-handed way, sort of a “my way or the highway” thought. My real purpose was to make readers think about what I said. If you’re reading this, I might have succeeded. If you have not read the previous piece, you might want to before reading further in this one.

My feelings on the topic of prayer and action, or action vs. prayer, are the result of my Christian Walk. I first learned about God and Christ as a small child, but I did not learn at church. I learned from stories my mom read to me and let me read. They were Bible stories for children, and most of what I knew about our Father in Heaven could be summed up in the Lord’s Prayer and the child’s prayer I was taught to recite before I went to bed.*

In both of those prayers, I was praying for God to do the work. He was asked to supply my daily bread. He was asked to keep my soul and take it if I died, and in at least one version of the bedtime prayer He was asked to guide me should I live. It seems these themes have become mainstream thinking within much of Protestant Christianity at least. We pray! God does!

In the modern world of social media and evolving politics, the pastor’s message discussed in Of Prayer makes a good deal of sense. Modern communication systems, and the stress many feel today, make it easy to do something we will regret once we are no longer blinded by rage or hurt. Praying is something in which we should engage before responding to an insult or position that one cannot support. Prayer is certainly much better than counting to ten, or more, as many suggest before responding. Yet, prayer is not a substitute for action.

God would not be much of a deity if He expected us to pray simply so He would know what we wanted. He would not seem very omnipotent if waited for our permission to act. He would not be a very good Father if He treated us like puppets instead of letting us learn. He expects us to take action, not simply pray and wait for Him to fix things.

If that was not the case, why did Jesus send the Apostles out to build the church? He did not say sit here, pray for where you want people to believe, and I’ll take care of it. He sent them forth to spread His message, sharing the truth of His birth, death, and resurrection.

The Bible contains our marching orders. It gives us the blueprint of how we are to live, what we are to do, and how we are to accomplish our tasks. Prayer is our way to consciously reach out to God. Prayer, like talking to an old friend or confidant, is a way to process our thoughts and articulate what God knows we are thinking. He will, if He thinks it necessary, respond in some tangible and clear way. My experience in this area leads me to believe He only has to make His position obvious when we are lying to ourselves, but that is a discussion for another day.

For today, here is the bottom line. If we feel strongly we should take some action, move in some particular direction, or feel strongly we should not do something, we should pray about it. If God does not send us a sign, and in most cases that is the last thing you might want, we have to decide what to do, using the counsel and resources available to us.

If we are attempting to do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, God may not stop us. That is the price of free will, and it is also the price we pay for lying to ourselves. The vast majority of us know when what we are thinking is wrong. On the other hand, He may stop us, but there will still be a price to pay.

If we are doing the right thing, for the right reason, God will see us through, even if our efforts are not successful. Sometimes failure is the only way we learn. Yes, even failure has a purpose.

* I was only taught the short version of this prayer as a child. Some sources say that was the “original” version, but no one seems to know for certain. Also, as with anything relating to religion, other traditions or denominations have variations of which I have little knowledge. One of the best pieces I found concerning the origins of the prayer was in a newspaper, the New Haven Register.

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About S. Eric Jackson

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