Why “I’ll pray about that,” “sending prayers,” or “love and prayers;” is shit; and how God feels about it!
An “open letter” showed up on my Facebook feed a couple days ago. Since that moment, much has been upon my soul. It was from a very well-known individual within the Charismatic prayer movement. Promising that some conference wouldn’t just be a cheerleading rally but would hold substance. As one who lived within the “prophetic, charismatic realms for decades,” I think more group think, then intelligent and hopeful change. I didn’t just live within, it was all my family did. There is much I could write here, some residue of pain and anger, some incredulousness over my own adherence to theologies that when put under scope wouldn’t stand the test of the Borean Jews. (More honorable then their counterparts because they did not just take the words of Paul but deciphered them for themselves.)
The one thought, that landed more then any other, were filled with the words of an Old Testament Prophet. ( A real prophetic voice, that resonated with the heart beat of the Divine for people not for religious industry) When prayers felt like they weren’t being heard, this is what was said….
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
“Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
The “I’m praying for you” or “love and prayers” isn’t the heart beat of the Divine. In all faith traditions there are sacred text verses that get pulled out of context.
For me the heart beat of the Divine is what my life is all about. I was called heretic, disowned by friends just for standing on a yoga mat. I’ve kept my heart before Divine presence since reading that open letter, and what I would say is this… Before anyone else after some tragedy says, “sending prayers,” maybe they should check in with what their God says about that.
The truest heart beat of the Divine is within their own sacred text, in the totality of it; feed the hungry, clothe the cold, house those without a home, invite the foreigner and stranger in. For those who pray, the promise of Isaiah is when you stop pointing fingers and put action behind your words, then the Divine answers.