Pray yes, but put in hard work to address national challenges

President William Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and their spouses during the National Solomn Prayers at thed Nyayo National Stadium. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

After the Nakuru and Nairobi prayer meetings, several people have raised interesting questions on the events. Some have wondered whether the new government has now turned to prayer as a solution to national problems and challenges, and whether this is a legitimate way to address national challenges - such as drought, security, economy and political dissentions.

Others have wondered whether the Kenya Kwanza government could be strategically using prayers as a disguise to muster its control on the Church - in what has been loosely termed as Church Capture. Still others wonder whether it could be the Church that is using prayers to capture the government.

Let me first declare that I was at the Nyayo National Stadium for the prayers on Tuesday last week. I was there on my own accord, to join fellow Kenyans in petitioning God to act on our behalf as a nation. I took no official part in the programme, nor did key players in the programme know of my presence. But I stayed the course, believing that the matters for which we had come to bring our pleadings, were weighty and deserving of laying aside our time and chores to humble ourselves before the Omnipotent.

Of a truth, at times I squirmed at the manner in which some of our spiritual leaders spoke or petitioned God. I nonetheless left that prayer meeting with the personal satisfaction that it had been worth my while - believing that God would honour the cries of Kenyans.

Given that background, my response to some of the questions and concerns may not be wholly untainted. However, it is public knowledge that the Kenya Kwanza team, and especially the President, has always found solace in God. From as far back as 2013 when they joined hands with Uhuru Kenyatta to pray about their cases at ICC, Dr Ruto has been a public petitioner at the mercy seat. Whether this is genuine or not, only the Divine Majesty can reveal.

On whether prayer is a legitimate way to address national challenges, the simple answer is - it depends. Prayer is always an acknowledgment that there are issues not within our ambit and therefore require divine intervention. Such matters like lack of rain, prolonged drought, and other natural calamities are beyond our human abilities. It is therefore an act of humility to petition Heaven to intervene. This understanding and practice is not just Christian but also African. The so-called rainmakers have been presumed to use supernatural powers to "make" rain. There is therefore everything positive when a nation humbles itself before God to seek Divine benevolence in such moments.

However, prayer was never intended to absolve us from the dignity of work. God never instituted the concept of prayer as an escape from our human mandate to work. God expects us, whether as individuals or communities, to work so as to provide for our wellbeing. He in turn promises to bless the labours of our hands. Therefore, the government - and anyone for that matter - must arise and strategically deal with all that ails our economy, politics, or national security. Prayer, in such cases, is to seek God's favour or wisdom on how to do work and not to replace it. Not even prayer and fasting can replace legitimate work - but can bless it.

As to whether the Church has captured or been captured by the government, that remains a matter of conjecture. While it is true that many politicians have often attempted or appeared to pocket the church or sections of it, such a capture if successful can only be considered tragic.

The church and government are both instituted by God for very different purposes - neither can nor should capture the other. Whenever the Church has waded into active politics, or politicians into the divine space, there has always been a challenge.

The implication, therefore, is that the Church must not be afraid to play its priestly role to intercede for the government and the nation in times of crisis. However, we must uphold the distinctive mandate to be the prophetic voice in times of darkness. This means the Church must not allow itself to be captured by politicians, neither should the Church privatise a national government.