But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. – James 1:22-25 (NRSV)
In Restored to Hope, I wrote the following:
Since Charlottesville, I have grown weary of praying every week for the end of racism, violence, and hate in this country. Some weeks, I’ve dreaded writing the prayers of the people most weeks because I feel like it is the same prayer over and over again. What more can we say? Maybe we should just pray Psalm 80 each week or the Advent prayer of Come, Lord Jesus, come. Writing these prayers is made even more difficult because I know that we view the causes and needed response to these situations differently. I want this space to be safe for us to be honest. I want us all to be able to say Amen when I finish a prayer.
In this season of so many thoughts and prayers, I was lamenting to a pastor friend of my frustration and the difficulty of finding new words for corporate prayer. I also wondered whether our prayers were our only form of action. Do we actually live our prayers out in the world or are they merely “thoughts and prayers”?
I don’t think prayer is a mere thing – not because of any eloquence or fervor we might have but because of the sovereign loving kindness of the One we offer them to. However, as I read scripture, it doesn’t seem that our prayers really belong locked in our prayer closet.
And so, last Sunday we wrote our prayers. Rather than simply offering them together, paper was provided for people to write their prayers to their elected officials:
Today we will write our prayers. While our spoken prayers are important, it is also important that we live them. Today, you are invited to write your prayer to any elected official on whatever topic is on your heart. Indicate to whom you want it sent and include your name and address (required for their office to log the letter). Please put the letters in the offering plate. The letters will be mailed this week.
When I collected the prayer letters, our small congregation (about 30 in worship last Sunday) wrote prayers to eight different people representing local, state, and national government. Their prayers were on different matters and from different viewpoints.
Maybe it’s not really more than just thoughts and prayers, but I feel like each person had the opportunity to integrate their faith with their life by not only praying in worship but also praying with action. And as we finished our prayer time, everyone was able to say “Amen.”