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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

On Prayer and Politics

Christian Prayer has a political dimension which is often overlooked. This is because prayer imbues all of human activity with the light of the Gospel of Christ. Politics, even when it gropes in the darkness of irrational forces and cruel prejudice, is among the frontiers of human activity in which this Light shines. The darkness, no matter how formidable, will not overcome it. Christian prayer helps us see the pilgrim character of politics. We are born into a world which is not the way it ought to be. Locked into dehumanizing dialectics for which we are only partially responsible and with which we must deal nonetheless, we are not at peace with our imprisonment. Our hearts burn with the desire to be set free from perspectives which do not see beyond the latest contrived cause. We search for a window or a door which leads out, but without help from something above our frail humanity, without a light brighter than that which we naturally know, an opaque world of facts keeps us in the dark. Prayer starts when we see how the walls of what is visible, measurable, tangible, explainable, and manipulable lock us in and we find ourselves no longer content to burn on the ash heap of frustration, disappointment, despair and shame. Prayer helps us see Egypt and Babylon for what they really are. Prayer helps us remember that we were made for a greater purpose--not as isolated individuals, but together as a people, as God's People, a people who are the special object of his sacred affection, his divine eros. In prayer we discover that we have a noble calling, a sacred destiny, an irreplaceable role to play in an unfolding drama into which we find ourselves invited. To pray is to raise our voices against those who do not want us to be free. When we raise our eyes to the mountains from whence comes our help, the light of confidence floods our souls and we know at once our lives are too sacred to be wasted on power games and ego trips, even our own. When the Living God discloses his loving presence to us we find ourselves ready to reject any attempt to reduce human life to a diversion, a social experiment for the powerful and influential. By prayer we easily discern how our jailers constantly concoct strategies to discourage us and to prevent us from realizing how miserable we are. In fact, if we cry out for freedom, these same thugs accuse us of being delusional, rebels against reality (their reality), out of touch and unwilling to accept the current state of affairs. When these tyrants—who include even our own big fat egos—force or manipulate us to act against what we know is true, it is time to raise to God Almighty the cry which He himself has caused to echo in our hearts. On our journey to freedom, to the household of the Father, to the heavenly homeland for which He created us, we may well grow weary and find ourselves discouraged by those who would hold us back, yet the indomitable yearning for freedom which yet burns in the human heart goads us on. God created us with this yearning and He died for us that this noble aspiration might be realized. It is a divine spark which the chilling winds of this dying world cannot fully extinguish. This fire will not quelched no matter the storms of this life because the Risen One has raised it with Him. This fire is a precious part of his own sacred and triumphant humanity. With an ardent love for each of us and concern for the noble desires of our hearts, He ceaselessly presents the glory of human freedom to the Father who gazes on it with love. For those who have the courage to journey by this spark, the path they tread is that of sacred humanity, humanity raised by God and illuminated with a love stronger than death. Here, politics rooted in prayer even stretches out to one's own enemies, the very adversaries who would deny us this freedom. This is because prayer has the dimensions of Christ's love. When the Word became flesh He chose to enter even into our politics—not with the desire to manipulate, overpower or control, but with the desire to save. The misery and hostility to God that lives in politics is not limitless. An ocean of mercy engulfs it. Whenever hearts raise in intercession in the face of oppression, the powerlessness of the Cross overpowers our hatred and we glimpse again the pathway for humanity. A single humble petition offered in faith gives God the space He needs to act. Prayer makes the Lord's saving work present again in the here and now, in the real concrete politics of every day life so that what is good, noble and true about our life together might not perish but be raised with Him forever.

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