Last night we had a wonderful Taize service–our last one until fall, actually, as we plan to take a summer break–and I once again noticed something odd during the prayer time.
At our Taize service we have a time where you are invited to simply say the name of a person or place that you want to pray for. We organize the prayer into “categories”–things we are grateful for, people we want to pray for for various reasons, places in the world we pray for (especially to receive peace/healing/etc), and then a time when you can pray for anything you like. In those first three, people generally just say the name of the person/place/thing–it’s not a long beautiful prayer, just a mentioning of things on our minds.
For several months now I have noticed that people are not shy about praying in the first two categories, but when we get to the third (praying for the world), everyone is silent. I find this surprising since we are a congregation with such a mission focus–we have ministries in/with Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Colombia, and more. Plus we are a well-informed congregation, I’m sure we know what’s going on in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Afghanistan, Darfur, and the streets of Chicago and even of Crystal Lake. So why aren’t we praying for these situations and places?
It has been suggested to me that we don’t want to sound political by mentioning these things–that bringing up political “issues” can disrupt prayer for some people.
Well, I suggest that then politics has paralyzed our prayer when really it should be motivating our prayer. Whether or not there is a “side” to be taken, there are people and situations that need prayer. If we are unwilling to pray for the people of Zimbabwe or the situation in Darfur or the people experiencing food shortages here and abroad or the people who are homeless at a time when PADS shelters are closing for the summer, simply because we are afraid of becoming “political”, then I’m afraid of what Jesus might have to say.
Remember, “politics” is simply how we live together as a community, a polis (city). Partisanship is different, it’s taking sides. I might argue that Jesus does sometimes take sides–with those no one is willing to pray for, eat with, be friends with, touch, or even see. But in any case, prayer is not partisan, though it may be political (because it can be about how we live together as a global human community).
So the next time you have the opportunity, remember to pray (even out loud!) for these situations and the people in them. We aren’t going to be judging your political party based on what you pray for–instead you are helping us to remember all of God’s people, around the world, and to pray for God’s peace and justice and grace to be known throughout the world.
As we gather together, even in this virtual space, I invite us all to pray for God’s people who know violence, fear, hunger, anxiety, and grief, and for those places like Iraq, Darfur, Egypt, Afghanistan, Kenya, Israel and Palestine, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Chicago, and even Crystal Lake that need to know God’s presence, peace, and love. And to pray also for ourselves, that we might be bold in prayer and in action. Amen.