mike lives in spokane washington and is a pastor at a spirit community called branches

Prayer - An Insufficient Definition For an Overused Response

Prayer - An Insufficient Definition For an Overused Response

I want to discuss the reoccurring hashtags of “pray for _____” that have been happening recently after tragedies. Back in February, I was researching prayer within the context of Christianity. I come from that background and know that a number of people who I’ve seen hashtag “prayfororlando” do as well. During the process of researching what prayer actually meant to the people of scripture, the thing that became abundantly clear is what it isn't in the Judeo-Christian tradition… 

It’s not folding your hands and speaking something in your mind. 

The sacred text in Christianity is the Bible. It’s split into two main parts - the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is comprised of 39 books. It is written in the Hebrew language which is known for having a small vocabulary. There are roughly 45,000 words recognized by the Hebrew academy. English, in comparison, has just over 1,000,000 words in it. Yet those books in the Bible that are written in Hebrew… They use 55 different words and phrases for prayer.

Then there’s the New Testament. This collection of 27 books is written in the language of Greek and is about 2/3 the length of the Old Testament. Yet there are 29 different words used in it for prayer. 

So my question then becomes, when we hashtag #prayforparis or #prayfororlando or #prayfortheworld… what do we actually mean?

Because it sure seems to me that the method we’ve decided to use, the bow-your-head-and-close-your-eyes method, isn’t doing much. Maybe it’s time we take a look at the definitions those Hebrews and Greeks, those with the foundational understanding of this faith, had for the word prayer.

Some of their definitions are as follows - 

  • to be the intercessor 
  • to command
  • to shout
  • to plead
  • to call upon
  • for; until; into; towards
  • to be on the lookout for
  • to turn into
  • intention 
  • beg
  • to intercede
  • to stand firm

Now in comparison, here is the definition in the English language for prayer, there’s one simple meaning for the word: to address a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity. 

If you consider yourself a Christian and your response to tragedy is expressing a solemn request to some far off deity, you don’t understand the faith you practice. I’m no better. I’m guilty of doing the same thing at times.

When one hashtags that they are praying or they bow their head or fold their hands or start whispering, nothing is going to happen to prevent these atrocities from continuing. 

If someone wants to pray for Orlando or Paris or Newtown or Colorado Springs or Marysville or Aurora... 

They should command that there be change to the policy makers that prevent that change from happening.

They should plead with the powers that be that action be taken to prevent such horrific things.

They should work towards the peace they ask their deity for, not just ask for it and wait for some puppet master to orchestrate it. 

They should be on the lookout for ways they can make the change they want to see. 

They should intercede in the injustice. 

We are not going to see these atrocities end by simply bowing heads. That’s ignorant, absurd, and quite frankly, it’s offensive. 

The way things get done is by recognizing the problems right in front of us.

Like why in the world an AR-15 is legal for ANYONE to buy. Whether you “collect guns for fun,” like to go hunting, or you’ve been interviewed by the FBI numerous times over suspicion of terrorism, if you want a gun that can have a round capacity of up to 100, it’s all yours. That’s appalling.

Now I’m no hunter but if you need a gun that can have a 100 round magazine, you’re either lazy or are terrible at hunting and should find another hobby. If we are to “pray” for change, maybe a good way to actually do so is by pushing to make these weapons illegal. 

The AR-15. The weapon used in the Newtown shooting, the Orlando shooting, the Aurora shooting, and others.

The AR-15. The weapon used in the Newtown shooting, the Orlando shooting, the Aurora shooting, and others.

Also, as far as collectible firearms are concerned, why in the world do we put a higher value in someones right to collect something over the right people have to their own life? If I wanted to collect the highest potency poisons available and I promised to keep them in safe and protected confines in my house and I was supposedly an emotionally stable person… people would call into question that activity because there’s the obvious possibility it could have a damaging impact on the community around me. 

How are guns any different? How about instead of bowing heads, we plead with people who we know who like collecting things that can kill to find something a little less lethal to collect? Have them melt them into something unique rather than having a murderous weapon. 

And lastly, as far as that argument of it being the person not the weapon - why don’t we stop “praying” after tragedy strikes, and instead intercede on behalf of that insane person? Put ourselves in the shoes of someones who is mentally unstable and make sure they don’t have access to something that could harm them and others. 

If we have children, do we keep harmful chemicals in places that children could have access to them? No! That’s ludicrous. We recognize their potential for harm and create alternative non-toxic products. We don’t need guns for protection, we don’t need guns for collection, and we don’t need guns for hunting. The hunters goal is to get back into the natural way of ancient civilizations that provided meat for themselves. Your supposed to work for food. It's supposed to be a sport of challenge. A gun makes that process quite easy. Why not use something more crafty like a bow and arrow?

Prayer is not bowing our heads and waiting for some outside entity to do the change for us. The Christian tradition stems from a man who was active in creating change in this world during his physical life, Jesus. When he wanted something done, he didn’t just wait around until some orchestrater in the sky did it, he made it happen.

It’s high time us people who “follow” him do the same. 

To start, research your representatives. See if they are working to change these atrocities, and if they aren’t, let’s do our duty as people of action and find some who are. Here’s a list of representatives by state - http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Also, is your representative or political preference supported by the National Rifle Association, people who have helped lobby for folks on the terror watch list to still have access to buying guns? Maybe if they are, you should reconsider your political preference. Find out here - https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=d000000082 

Igor Volvsky (@igorvolvsky) called out every politician who tweeted thoughts and prayers after the shooting but is funded by the NRA. Maybe you could do the same.

And lastly, to speak directly about the tragedy in Orlando. If you try and play this off as another terrorist act without also recognizing it as a hate crime directly targeting homosexuals, shame on you. Although someone from a radical and falsely informed Muslim perspective was the one who carried out this attack, the hate people from Christianity have shown the LGBT community is horrendously sickening. All I can hope is that this awful act helps close-minded religious people to recognize that we are all human. That we should stand in solidarity and love. And that just because someone is gay doesn’t make them a sinner. It makes them a human who simply has different preference than us. And if we can’t recognize that reality after something like this than dear God, we have a bigger issue on our hands. 

graphic designed by Tim Evanson http://bit.ly/1PphVaJ

graphic designed by Tim Evanson http://bit.ly/1PphVaJ

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