Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ora et Labora

I just learned from a Rachel Sklar article at Huffington Post that this weekend had been designated as one for special prayer for the people of Darfur, the victims of genocide on the part of the Sudanese government. Had I known this, I certainly would have included prayers for Darfur in the Prayers of the Church during our congregation's worship celebrations on Saturday and Sunday.

Prayer seems particularly apt because of the maddening, tragic intractability of the suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan. As I've mentioned many times before, Frank Laubach, the Methodist layperson who began the worldwide literacy movement which bears his name, said that prayer only really happens when faith in Christ is matched with the sense of helplessness that means we no longer rely on our own cleverness and allow us to rely on God.

Laubach also said that far better than our lobbying world leaders to pursue the courses of action we deem appropriate from the standpoint of our own limited wisdom, is for us to pray that God would give leaders His wisdom and that the leaders would be open to it. Given that I can't figure out how best to resolve the tragedy in Darfur, that seems like good advice.

Of course, if one isn't careful, such a stance taken to an extreme could justify a quietism that stands by while all sorts of injustices are perpetrated. A seminary professor of mine used to append a note to the blue books in which we wrote the essay responses to his test questions. "Ora et labora," Tryg Skarsten wrote, sharing a Latin phrase meaning, "Pray and work."

Sometimes when we pray that God will give our leaders guidance, God turns around and gives us guidance for what we should say and do in the face of injustice and other horrible tragedies. God sometimes tells us to be the answers to the prayers we offer.

So, I'm going to pray for a resolution of crises from Sudan, to Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope that you'll do the same.

But none of us should be surprised if God's answer is, "You be the solution." Then our prayer must be, "God give us the courage to do what You seem to call us to do."

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