Prayer is definitely not passive, but this blog title is written in what’s called passive voice. Action voiced sentences should read something like these:Prayer makes a difference. Prayer changes things. Prayer overcomes the problems of the world. Prayer chews up evil and spits it out as good.
After reading a book called Violent Prayer, I met with a group of intercessors in Chattanooga, TN to pray over the violence that caused one writer and speaker to refer to our gorgeous community as “two cities”. There’s the Chattanooga that makes the list of most liveable cities in the country. Its got a wonderful cost of living, great private and magnet schools, a river, a large outdoorsy community, an up and coming downtown, jobs, and community foundations that throw money at renovation, small businesses, art, and educational projects. Its nestled beneath lumpy green mountains and a ridge with an awesome view of the skyline. There’s a fresh market and a church on every corner. Happy children play in the streets.
Then there’s the other Chattanooga. This part is where those pushed out of lower income housing have come to live. Its a world of babydaddies and babymamas rather than traditional families, pre and post prison males, gang warfare that leaves a casualty laid out in the street on a regular basis. This Chattanooga is encroaching, and all people know to do is pray.
“It won’t help anything,” one of my friends complained when I invited her. Lots of people would silently agree with her; she was just bold enough to express her heart out loud. Burned out, frustrated, and tired, she has seen the underbelly of the city for too long. She was losing hope. We argued about the issues for quite awhile, and then we quietly released each other and agreed to disagree.
But that night, the few of us gathered to pray lifted our voices. We lamented the lack of unity among the churches, the stiff religiosity that kept people in close quarters with their friends but blocked their empathy for those who were different. We confessed our own sins of gossip, sneakiness, judgmental attitudes, idolatry. We proclaimed life rather than death, wealth for poverty, unity for distrust, joy for despair. We asked for creative and unique ideas, changed mindsets, more feet on the ground, for pricked hearts, for open minds. We quoted our favorite scriptures, and we laughed, and we cried. And we chose to believe that the violent passion of our meeting was more powerful than the indiscriminate and misguided violence lurking outside its doors.
We want everyone who believes that there is a God who created the universe to pray like He can change the world again. Raise your voice in stern indignation for injustice, for youth who die young, for apathy and self-centeredness. And don’t you dare let your prayers be passive.