Our country needs all advantages that can be brought by prayers
By Edward Buri - May 29th 2022
Prayer is one of the highest ranking spiritual tools. That prayer occurs independently across communities in the world underlines the instinctive longing of humans for their maker. This world seeks the outer world. Humans seek refuge when they hurt and lack.
The default value of prayer is connecting with divine remedies for inescapable human limitations. From observation, even the irreligious at some point or other have to plead with other human beings for help – sometimes with pleas so intense they qualify to be described as prayers. When people are narrating stories of their lives they will often describe turning points with a phrase such as “But I had a praying mother…”
Spirituality presents prayer not as an innovation of man but an invitation of God. Prayer gives access to a higher realm, seeking mystical benevolent forces to break through into the stories of women and men. From a biblical angle, prayer goes beyond just affirming the existence of God to demonstrating God’s will to favourably interact in the affairs of creation. Fundamental to this interaction is that God is loving and able to support human beings excel at being human.
Given the many unexplained matters in the world, spiritual perspectives can be challenged but not dismissed. As long as there are things that humans do not understand, God will remain relevant. The challenge is always how effectively believers can contact their God with practical results.
That God gave the first humans in the biblical story instructions on how to live points to a “soft” creation - the capacity of humans to hear God. That God asked humans questions expecting answers tells of another soft creation - God’s readiness to hear people. This communication was essentially in favour of creation making prayer a lifeline, literally.
No one can give a certain detail science of how prayer works. There are people whose prayers are deemed to have higher probabilities of yielding results. This is what makes people go to their pastors because they believe their intercession is more potent.
But the specific yield of prayer- the action God will take - remains uncertain. This lack of absolute certainty tells of the unpredictability of God. That God is unpredictable does mean elusive. It only means that human will and God’s will are often dissimilar. That you will get what you asked for is never a guarantee. But from experience, many people attribute their transformations to the practice of prayer. Some prayer stories are so graphic that the results and the intercession are inseparable. Personal experiences - the like of “I was blind but now I can see” - remain the greatest witnesses of the potency of prayer.
Some biblical narratives heighten expectations of prayer outcomes. The record of Elijah at Mt Carmel and his contest with the prophets of Baal is such a passage. Yahweh’s response to Elijah’s prayer is dramatic. It not only affirms the existence of the God of Israel but also that the power He wields that is literally out of this world. In this show of might, other gods are not only diminished but their falsehood is affirmed. Similarly, many miracles of Jesus were a result of human prayer. The gospels’ compilation of miraculous happenings connects prayer with the dramatic.
This is the background with which people tune in to the National Prayer Breakfast. People expect passionate expressions to God. There are those who even expect divine in-breakings. Understand this drama school if they find the prayer breakfast underwhelming. Since the organisers of the event had and have God’s presence as their goal, the assessment of whether it was successful remains elsewhere. Our scales may be based on what we hear the leaders say. But God sees hearts before hearing voices.
Nation is happy
However ceremonial it may seem, the national prayer breakfast is a useful event in that it is one of the best “litmus” gatherings to read the mood of the nation. When the nation is happy, speeches are longer and laughter louder. When the nation is tense, apologies are made, words are few, light moments hardly invoke a giggle and a friendly gesture is likely to be misread. The clergy too dilute their punch for fear of the risk of being misunderstood or coming across too strong. It is hard to tell whether the carefulness is out of reverence for God or fear of fellow humans.
But even when the point of the prayer breakfast is sometimes lost in translation, one thing remains clear - God is the primary focus. Friend and foe gather together “under God”, literally. The capacity of the prayer breakfast to bring together fierce competitors is precious enough to keep this space open.
In the heat of transition politics, many leaders are preoccupied with their own success but hardly the stability of the larger environment. While we would want our personal worlds to flourish, the external environment is directly connected to personal spaces. Personal peace is impossible when the larger community is burning.
To seek personal prosperity is tagged with a regard for national prosperity. The Safari Park gathering should not only serve the purpose of observing the dynamics between leaders, speech performances or reason to attack those missing in action. It must go further and provoke year-round prayers for the nation. Effective prayers are prime assets for national development. We may not know whose or which prayer God will answer. But one thing is clear - our country needs all advantages that prayer can bring.
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