Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayerful Response

It is horrifying to imagine 10 or 20 killed, my mind cannot conceive of the more than 80 that is the currently reported number.  Seeing a photo in the European press of the victims still scattered about the island that was the site of a portion of yesterday's atrocity in Norway did nothing other than shove my conception further into numbness.  Having twice been in the presence of mass trauma, one nature-made and one not, I am reminded not only of the sights associated with such an event, but of the sounds and the smells.  Yes, the term "horror" seems inadequate.

Christians pray in a variety of ways.  As I have been your rector for two years now, you know that, in the words of a former parishioner of mine and now dean of Virginia Seminary, I can be a very "Augustinian".  That is, I find that the best way to pray is to seize whatever I can summon in the way of intellect and physical ability and make something happen.  Whether it is organizing a charity concert or building a guitar, sometimes just repairing a small piece of the parish or rectory, I find that form of prayer to be satisfying and appropriate, as it connects my actions to something greater.

But there are atrocities which challenge my intellect and cannot be affected by anything I can do physically.  Whether it is Oklahoma City or September 11th or yesterday in Norway or any number of massively cruel actions committed by one human, or group of humans, on others, all I have is prayer at its simplest and most basic.  Some words, clumsily chosen and expressed, that represent a petition that I can barely define.

This article is from a number of years ago, now.  I had a physical copy of it for some time but it was lost in one of the many moves of the past 25 years.  Naturally, I was able to find it on the Internet.  Please click on the paragraph below to read it in its entirety.

It is difficult for modern Christians to pray precisely because we carry within ourselves the very questions about how God works in the world -- or makes any difference in the world -- that cause the so-called atheists among us to turn their backs on God in melancholy outrage. Further, we wonder, are we constantly to go through the motions of asking -- when we know we can do for ourselves? Weren’t we created to be creative, hardworking beings? Aren’t our talents given to us precisely so that we can produce? And is it not an embarrassing fact that because we generally don’t need God to bail us out, when we do become desperate and could indeed use help we are almost ashamed to ask? We don’t want to be like the shameless son who never visits his parents except to hit them for a loan.