"Prayer is political action."

I am doing something here truncated and imbalanced.  I am going to string together a series of quotes pulled from their context of which the title of this post is the first.  All of the following come from the chapter entitled “The Unselfing of America”  in Eugene Peterson’s Where Your Treasure Is (W.M. Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, MI, 1993), 1-15.

  • “Prayer is social energy.  Prayer is public good.” 
  • “The single most widespread American misunderstanding of prayer is that it is private. … When we privatize prayer we embezzle the common currency that belongs to all.”
  • “Solitude in prayer is not privacy. … Privacy is getting away from others so that I don’t have to bothered with them; solitude is getting away from the crowd so that I can be instructed by the still small voice of God, who is enthroned on the praises of the multitudes.”
  • “We can no more have a private prayer than we can have a private language. …  We are involved, whether we will it or not, in a community of the Word – spoken and read, understood and obeyed (or misunderstood and disobeyed).  We can do this in solitude, but we cannot do it in private.  It involves an Other and others.
  • “If the self abdicates creativity and interaction with other selves, whether God or neighbor, it becomes flaccid and bloated.”
  • “The best school for prayer continues to be the Psalms.  It also turns out to be an immersion in politics.”
  • “The word ‘politics’, in common usage, means ‘what politicians do’ in matters of government and public affairs. …  Politics is smudged with greasy adjectives…  But the word cannot be abandoned just because it is dirtied.  It derives from the Greek word polis (“city”).  It represents everything that people do as they live with some intention in community, as they work toward some common purpose, as they carry out responsibilities for the way society develops.  Biblically [speaking, God] began his work with a couple in a garden; he completes it with vast multitudes in a city.”

  • “The people who warn that ‘religion and politics don’t mix’ certainly know what they are talking about. …  All the same, God says, ‘Mix them.’ …  It is both unbiblical and unreal to divide life into the activities of religion and politics…  But how do we get them together without putting one into the unscrupulous hands of the other…?  Prayer is the only means that is adequate for the great end of getting these polarities in dynamic relation.”
  • “[Psalms 1 and 2 are] an initiation into the responses that we make to the word of God personally (‘blessed is the man,’ 1:1) and politically (‘blessed are all,’ 2:11).
  • “All the Psalms that follow range between these introductory poles, evidence that there can be no division in the life of faith between the personal and the public, between self and society.  Contemporary American life, though, shows … we love Psalm 1 and ignore Psalm 2. …  Praying [through psalms like Psalm 2] breaks through the barrier of the ego and into the kingdom that Christ is establishing.”
  • “God does not save us so that we can cultivate private ecstasies. …  We are made citizens in a kingdom, that is, a society.  He teaches us the language of the kingdom by providing the psalms.”
  • “[The unselfing of America] is taking place all across the land.  Bands of people meet together regularly to engage in the work.  Disbanded, they continue what they began in common. …  Assembled in acts of worship, they pray.  Dispersed, … they also pray.  Much of the population, profoundly ignorant of the forces that hold their lives together, does not even know that these people exist.”
  • “These people who pray know what most around them either don’t know or choose to ignore…  They know that life confined to the self is a prison, a joy-killing, neurosis-producing, disease-fomenting prison.”
  • We don’t need a new movement to save America.  The old movement is holding its own and making its way very well. …  The people who meet in worship and offer themselves in acts of prayer are doing what needs to be done.  They welcome others to join them.”
  • “These citizens have unmasked the devil’s deception that prayer is a devotional exercise [for] pious people … but that for people in the so-called real world the way to get things done is by committee, by machine, or by a public relations campaign.  They have recognized the deep, embracing, reforming, revolutionizing character of prayer: it is essential work in shaping society and in forming the soul.”
  • “Prayer acts on the principle of the fulcrum, the small point where great leverage is exercised… at the conjunction of heaven and earth…”
  • “Prayer is a repair and a healing of the interconnections. …  and pursues healing to its end, settling for nothing less than the promised new heaven and new earth.”

In an election year when so many are paying such close attention to candidates and hanging so much hope on the next President, these words on prayer should bring us to a halt.  How much more can a prayer to the King of Kings do than a vote for a Commander in Chief?

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