Today, I happened to stumble across, while sorting old newspapers, an article from the Guardian titled “I’m invisible – I am a Christian”. The author, Chibundu Onuzo, was a committed Christian and was reflecting on a story (sadly not an isolated case) of a nurse that was suspended from her job for gross misconduct, because she had asked some of her patients, who may have been feeling apprehensive, if they would like her to pray for them.
She reflected that offering to pray for someone was what she was inclined to do herself in comparable situations and sometimes did, and felt this was one of the best thing she could offer to people in their time of trouble, although not in her professional capacity. She considered given the way the culture was these days she was often somewhat reticent making it known she was a Christian, fearing the negative responses. It got me thinking about a number of things.
As any person who sees their religion as important would testify, prayer is something religious folk take seriously, even though many (probably most) admit this is something they don’t do nearly enough off. I have often pondered on the place and power of prayer in my own life. Increasingly, I find myself facing things I have little control over and situations which I want changed for the better, for example the tragedy unfolding in Aleppo, and the best I feel I can do is lay my anger and frustration at the door of Almighty God, believing He will act. Last night, as I began my stint at the night shelter I manage (which run by the churches makes it easier), I prayed before going out, with my team before we opened our doors to the guests, and with the guests before dinner was served. It was not for ostentation or proseletization but rather because prayer was intrinsic.
I was intrigued to reflect on a short mediation Prince Charles gave recently on people being persecuted because of their religion and the danger of religious practice being eradicated in certain places, specifically in places like Iraq, and this was for him a matter of grave concern, irrespective of the religion in question. Sadly, even though this is a world wide occurrence, this is being too often under reported so Prince Charles raising this is timely. Another prominent figure, Theresa May, recently made a statement that Christians should feel emboldened about sharing their faith, which brought to mind the sometimes untoward consequences when they do.
As those who read my blogs know, the subject of culture wars is a theme I frequently return to and the freedom to practice one’s religion is an important one that needs to be cherished. It is not enough to say it is ok to practice one’s religion as long as it remains a private matter. My religion, at least, is meaningless if practice does not include how I conduct myself in public. It is not a matter of keeping silence out of fear of pushing something down people’s throats that they don’t want or avoiding talk of religion out of fear of offending people, but talking openly about and acting accordingly with my faith, and leaving the possibility for direct contact with the Almighty, which all comes as part of the package. As for prayer, it is done because I believe it can make a difference, it is important to honour the Lord and we need all the help we can get.
As for if / when to pray or not to pray, I am reminded of the text exhorting us to “pray without ceasing” i.e. any /all times / places. There is much to pray into as well as to give thanks for. Let us therefore do so to the One who listens and acts for the best.