When our kids were younger, we had a nighttime routine for bedtime. After baths, after brushing teeth, after the bedtime story and that last drink of water, we prayed. We prayed the same basic prayer every night, and we called it “God Blesses and Prayers:”
“God, thank you for a beautiful day. Thank you for [insert good things that happened today.] God Bless Mommy and Daddy, Shannon and Jack and Ash-a-lee, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunt and Uncles and Cousins, all our friends, people who are happy, and those who need help. We love you, God. Amen.”
Such a simple prayer that reminded all of us, each day, to thank God, remember those who are close to us, and to help others in whatever way we could, and especially through prayer. But is prayer enough? Some say yes, some say no. And, to be inclusive, some say prayer just doesn’t make a difference. I’m one that says yes, prayer helps.
Recently, some in the national spotlight have taken heat for offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the families and victims of the San Bernardino shootings. Perhaps we’ve all just had enough – too much violence, too much fear, too much inaction to help those who need it most. Some seem to be saying that prayer is not enough – they want action; they want progress; they want an end to this insane run of violence.
I, too, want change, and action, and an end to violence.
But I also don’t think I’m going to get that without prayer. Why? Because when I pray, I listen; and when I pray, I wait for God to respond. And when God responds, we are called to act, sometimes courageously, to make a change where change is needed.
Mother Teresa understood the power of prayer. She helped us understand the purpose of prayer when she told us:
And so, we pray. We pray thanks for all that is right in our lives. We pray for the right words to comfort a friend who is grieving the loss of a family member during this holiday season. We pray for the soldiers, and the first responders, who put their lives in danger every day and night, so that we are safe. We pray for our fears, and for others’ fears as they face difficult medical problems. We pray for wisdom to enter into discussions to help solve problems that seem to grow larger every day.
And we pray that each of us listens closely for God’s call, and that each of us has the courage to act on that call, wherever it might lead.
When we do, we’re doing a lot more than ‘offering thoughts and prayers.’ We are changing things for the better. And in doing so, we make “God Blesses and Prayers” an action, not just a phrase.