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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Prayer on the Eve of an Infamous Decision

January 22nd is a day of penance. Bread and water, a little less sleep and comfort and a little more prayer and sacrifice, renouncing noise and diversion to embrace sober silence and heartfelt tears, waking from sluggishness of heart to take up works of mercy - all of this is appropriate. Prayerful tears leading to radical conversion constitute the only adequate response one can render in the face of even one purposely induced abortion. How are we to respond to the more than fifty million instances of heartless brutality that have poisoned these last forty years? How can we feel anything but shame over the inhumane industry which developed in our communities as a result? We bear together the unbearable burden of this social misery and only God can rescue our humanity from being crushed by its weight. On this day, we pray and fast but not without hope: Christian prayer offered with love and confidence has the power to overcome every form of violence and brutality. This is because this kind of prayer, the prayer that flows from a broken heart, has the power to gain bold access to the Lord. The Lord would not declare that those who sorrow are blessed unless He had committed Himself to comforting them by manifesting the transforming power of His mercy. America needs Christians who care enough to pray with the blessed sorrow that alone brings Christ's healing comfort. When the Supreme Court trampled the inalienable right to life, it burdened American life with the weight of violent uncertainties. In a society where even the womb is exposed to the most heartless brutality and egregious atrocities, what hope is there that such a people will ever be able to grow together in authentic social concern or friendship? And if any instrument of government believes itself invested with the authority to subjugate the sacred rights of the most vulnerable, how can the governed really have confidence in any kind of rule of law other than that which the politically and culturally powerful use to marginalize those whose rights are deemed inconvenient for the progress of society? Not satisfactorily resolved, these perilous questions sink the whole American experiment into a pigpen of disingenuous political and cultural gamesmanship. We must prayerfully grieve for our nation, for our communities, for our families. American greatness is grounded in the humility that the light of faith reveals to those who seek God. Only the faith of those who believe can help our society rethink again the gift of life under the rays of a kindly light. Christian prayer magnifies this light under whose faintest glimmer true life, humility and greatness are together born. But it can only do so with heartfelt tears (whether physical or not): God hears the contrite soul that pours itself out in humble need -- and for Christians offering such intercession is our greatest social responsibility. If we would open our hearts to the the sorrow with which God aches we too would ache for the millions of babies, and children, and young people, and whole families which He willed to entrust to our care, but who are not here because of what we have willed. We must weep over our own blind self-deception in believing that any decision regarding life is private affair. We are all implicated in one another's decisions irrespective of whether we are male or female, friends or enemies, atheists or believers. The decision not to welcome or protect life is always a social reality, the most inhumane form of social poverty that can inflict any family or community -- and God's heart can only weep over us for having fallen into such misery. By prayer and fasting there is still the opportunity that we might be pierced to the heart. It is still possible for us to know compunction over the fact that instead of protecting motherhood and supporting those whose desperate situations drove them to despair, we viewed their plight as an inconvenience that needed to be dispatched as efficiently as possible. Sorrow can still drive us to the hope of prayer and by this hope to a new beginning. If heaven is dismayed that we who have been blessed far beyond anything we ever deserved chose to be callous towards those who most needed our help, our encouragement, our love -- we still may yet be astonished by the mercy of God in which even the evil of our personal decisions finds its limit. In prayer, the tears of faith access the power of God who in unimaginable mercy is waiting to heal the alienation and coldness of heart our own actions have brought on ourselves. In such holy conversation with the One who knows the deepest truth of our hearts, baptized in holy tears of repentance and gratitude, the grace of a change of heart yearns to unfold and new possibilities that we cannot imagine await us.

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