Last night Ken and I attended the first Wednesday Evening event of the school year at the chapel that is our spiritual home. It began with a modest supper of salad, humus wraps from the Thistle Stop Cafe, fresh tomatoes from the chapel garden, and a few add-ons. After supper was worship, and for those with a hunger to lend melodic voice to worship, the first choir practice for the newly revived congregational choir.
We got there early, not knowing how much time to allow to weave through Nashville's rush-hour traffic, and we were hanging out in the office of the assistant priest when conversation about worship details arose. There was discussion about including a prayer for peace in light of the tensions around our government's deliberations regarding action against Syria. The consensus was that praying hard was the order of the day.
Inwardly, I cringed. I'm not opposed to prayer, not by any means. I'm not opposed to praying about serious global issues, and with deep roots in a Peace Church tradition the likelihood of military action against Syria is something that rankles at my core. My cringing innards were remembering the days that led up to our invasion of Iraq, when I not only prayed fervently about that approaching calamity but sought the haven of a beloved sacred space to do so. I believed at the time, with deep conviction, that copious amounts of prayer were in order. And I was not alone. The world over people and communities and nations were praying that military action would not become the order of the day. As we all know, our collective prayers did not sway the forces of power that perpetuated the assault on Iraq.
The realization that a world full of prayer as a dose of prevention against what became the debacle of Iraq proved useless resulted in a prayer crisis for me. It was a crisis that lasted for years, the residual effects of which are still in play. So when voices insist now on prayer about Syria, a part of me wants to pipe up, "Oh, really?" That would make it about me, and it's not about me.
What is about me is that the scars of my prayer crisis seem to have left a numbness about prayer, leaving me to search and scavenge for other ways to be engaged in thoughtful response to situations like the one we now face with Syria. As we listen to news reports each night that include statistics about the resistance of our fellow citizens to the idea of military action my response is always the same. What can be done? What are the options? Have the leaders of responsible nations been deferring serious discussion about a response to chemical warfare since the hint of its first use some time back? Where are the strategic thinkers? Where are the creative problem-solvers? How is it that in this day we are left wringing our collective hands and shrugging our shoulders as we default to the violence of military action?
I have no answers. Like too many others my own world is so small that other priorities distract me from learning more and, subsequently, doing more, doing anything, that might make a difference. I am reminded of my favorite quote from scripture, found in Micah (6:8): What does the Lord require of us but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. If I strive for anything in my life it is to reflect this wisdom.
It is a familiar adage that "the least we can do is pray." Long ago, on the rugged road that has been my spiritual evolution, I read someone respond to that as being in error, countering that the significance of prayer is such that "the most we can do is pray." I have mulled that over and considered its wisdom countless times since first encountering it. On this side of my crisis I have come to understand that there is a time in our growth when that latter adage holds true. But I am no longer there. Numb or not, I do continue to pray, be it in fractured and unrecognizable ways. I am also convinced that when and where possible, prayer requires the companion of action. The type of action will vary depending on each of us and is not for me to direct--I have enough trouble sorting out my own opportunities and invitations to enter a fray.
I may not have answers, but I do have inspiration. Thistle Farms has a sort of tag line: love is the most powerful force for change in the world. So let's begin with love. All of us. Starting where it is easy and natural, let's draw from the strength and empowerment love gives us to love in the harder places. Let's love our way into and through reconciliation with another person. Let's love our way past misunderstandings and misconceptions. Let's love our way into accepting those we mistakenly think are unacceptable. Let's love beyond our limits and past our boundaries to reach where we thought we could never reach. Let's love fervently and graciously and prayerfully.
Let's do. And we'll pray about Syria, too.