Make a list of some of the intractable problems facing us: natural disasters, deadly violence, international conflicts, human rights violations, mutating bacteria, political impasses, hunger and the like. That’s just my short list. You probably can add quite a few items.
Here’s the question: What’s the one thing all Christians can do about such matters. Quite rightly, many of us fire off action-oriented answers. Let’s feed the hungry, care for the sick, assist those ravaged by natural disasters, or get involved in politics. Some of us might try joining with others to discern the roots and systemic causes of our chronic problems and develop alternative systems. Both approaches fall well within the Christian tradition, and I strongly affirm those who take such actions.
Constant prayer, though, is the one response available to all of us all of the time. I don’t remember for certain, but I think it was Thomas Merton who first called my attention to prayer as vocation. Since then, I’ve become convinced ongoing prayer for the world is the core vocation of each Christian and the larger Body of Christ.
I can’t prove it true, but I believe prayer assists God in ways beyond our ken and influences the minds and hearts of those for whom we pray. Much more certain: ongoing intercessory prayer affects the person and the church and the larger Body of Christ doing the praying. My hunch is that if we prayed more, we would be transformed into people who can better respond to crises, systemic evils, and the complicated webs that entangle us in habits of thought and deed that harm others.
Prayer is our shared vocation. Let us pray.