A follow up to ‘The Work of Prayer’
By nature, I’m one of life’s ‘do-gooders’, pathologically helpful, the one in the crowd who doesn’t seem to have psychological immunity to other people’s problems, not a busy-body quite… but a ubiquitously good samaritan when given the least opportunity.
That kind of character has the potential to be every bit as ghastly as a grumpy old misanthrope, if one is not careful. It has taken me years of force-of-will to learn how to ‘butt out’, to avoid ‘sticking my oar in’ and not to ‘fix’ people… but such carefully honed non-activity means that nowadays, when I feel the urge to act, or try to act, or encourage others to act, I have to think, reflect, and pray my socks off until I dare do anything. I’m not talking about instant help -calling ambulances, picking small children up off the floor -or lending an immediate hand with a practical task -though even there it is an effort to remember to ask permission and sometimes actually accept the answer ‘no’.
But the Gospels, and indeed the Psalms and Old Testament prophets, make it very clear that Godly living includes positive activity in the world -from not actively permitting injustice, but working against it; to helping those in need, in practical ways… the Christian life is not (should not be) about self-centred piety, activities that focus solely on our personal relationship with God, out of touch and out of context with the rest of humanity; Christianity is absolutely NOT a personal, private choice between us and our maker -read any part of the Bible, God is interested in the whole of humanity, that means YOU and those with whom you interact…it is everybody’s business.
So whilst activities that focus on our relationship with God are important -they can only ever be both personal AND interpersonal. And I believe that prayer should be accompanied and followed up by prayerful action… in fact it seems to me that after a while, prayer begins to cry out to ones life… demanding change, activity and transformation.
So as Lent approaches, I pray earnestly, that here at the College of the Resurrection, we should be allowed and able to begin to act for good in the world, in our locality and regain the lively ethos of human equality and Christ-centred community that has always been at the heart of the college’s common-life… and to allow the deeply-drawn living water to flow out in prayer and activity in this area.
“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58: 5-8