The Work of Prayer
In a matter of days, Boston’s spirit was ripped apart. Our inboxes exploded in panic while red and blue sirens lacerated the night. Streets trembled in a menacing silence and our worst fears were continuously realized.
Throughout this difficult time, I have repeatedly seen the Christian community here at Harvard rally together in prayer. But it is precisely at a moment like this, when the world seems so senseless and hollow – when we are all supposedly most in need of prayer – that I have trouble believing in the power of prayer at all.
Prayer isn’t healing the bleeding wounds of the policemen that were shot down. Prayer isn’t stopping the armed lunatics from continuing to destroy the lives of all the innocent people around them. In this context of unadulterated cruelty, prayer seems embarrassingly futile. What is prayer doing? How does it fit into this equation of chaos and violence?
And that’s just it: prayer doesn’t fit into this senseless context because an equation of chaos and violence is really no equation at all. When the world is suffering and broken, we can’t adopt its brokenness as our guiding framework. Or to put it a bit differently, when your glasses break, you can’t put them on to fix them. Yet we need to find a way to see again.
And prayer helps us do just that.
As we pray, as we reflect and share our pain in fellowship, we find comfort and peace in one another (no small feat in such dark times). But prayer does not stop there. For through prayer, through this communal experience, we become intimately aware of one another. We see beyond the narrow confines of our individual lives and suddenly, self-oriented students become altruistic volunteers, ambitious businessmen become impromptu nurses, strangers become brothers.
Undeniably, prayer transforms us. Prayer forces us to care and to love. It chisels us out of our cold indifference and makes us feel. So when we are stripped of everything we hold most dear and everything that makes us who we are, prayer restores our fundamental humanity.
In this way, prayer is our unfailing compass. It lifts us up from the gloom of pain and disillusion, and once again aligns us with God’s plan. When the world is inexplicably cruel, prayer lets us see that God is undeniably present. And with our sights set on Him, we become vehicles for His will.
I’m ashamed to admit that during most of this time, I didn’t pray. I kept to myself and went on with my life. Undoubtedly, there were people in need, but I can’t imagine I was of very much help to any of them.
This week, this article is the first good thing I have done. It is my first act of prayer.