March 20, 2018
Without Action Prayers Are Meaningless
By Hiatt Allen
The only thing people seem to say anymore after a tragedy is that their thoughts and prayers are with those affected.
And I get that, to some extent. The tragedy is fresh, it is emotional and it’s hard to know what to say to someone who has gone through such a horrific event especially, when it’s not happening in your community. And thoughts and prayers are comfortable, easy, and politically correct.
And thinking about the tragedy and praying about it helps us to process it. For many, it’s a regular part of reflecting and mourning those that are lost.
But while it may be an easy statement and a necessary mourning process, thoughts and prayers alone are not enough. Pray all you want but what are you doing to bring about what you are praying for?
If we believe that prayers are enough, that means our prayers are always answered without any work on our part. So, then why do we get medical treatment? Why do we work? Why do we try and improve our world?
If prayer was answered by an omnipotent God interceding on our behalf, the world would be an immaculate place
The power of prayer lies in figuring out the actions you need to take to bring about what you are asking for. Praying to God is a place for self-reflection and self-actualization. What can I do to fix the problems? What can we do to change the world for the better?
Prayer can’t work alone because God works through us to create a better and more compassionate world.
The epistle of James says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
What good are our prayers without work on our part? What does our faith mean if we don’t put it into action by fighting for policies, causes, and issues we believe will bring about God’s will on earth?
The people who think prayer should not be followed by action reminds me of the story of a man who lived next to a river.
During a terrible storm, a man heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town, and that the all the residents should evacuate their homes.
But the man said, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me."
The waters rose up, a guy in a rowboat came along and he shouted to the man, "Hey, you in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety."
But the man shouted back, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me."
A helicopter came and hovered overhead and a guy with a megaphone shouted, "Hey, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I'll take you to safety."
But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety. Well, the man drowned.
Afterward, the man asked God, "I'm a religious man, I pray, I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?"
God said, "I sent you a radio report, a rowboat, and a helicopter. What are you doing here?"
We must recognize that faith calls us to action. Without action prayer is meaningless. We cannot stop at praying. We have to fight to make our prayers a reality.
Hiatt is a Senior Advisor and a co-founder of KSVT. He was previously the Operations Partner and the Associate Student Director. Hiatt graduated from Tates Creek High School in 2014 and American University in 2017. He is a graduate student at the University of Chicago Divinity School & Harris School of Public Policy.