I heard a good, well-meaning person recently say that prayer is the only thing keeping things in the world from being worse than they are. I disagree with this. Whether or not such people are praying or not, God works through human beings, and it is only as each human being works from a place of peace and gentleness (aka, “God”), combined with education about the complex realities around us, that we can be the channels of God’s healing that are needed in the world.
Shouting, blaming, continual conflict and confrontation, put-downs, hostility, fear-mongering — these methods used as techniques in our political process, in large part, ARE the problem. They come out of human fear, out of anxiety, out of a sense that if the world isn’t as I want it to be, I can’t be okay. Until individual human beings address this constant restlessness in their own hearts, we’ll continue to butt heads, each person/party/nation thinking they are right and everyone else is wrong, and each person/party/nation actually doing more to contribute to the spiral of gridlock and violence than they are doing to solve it, while blaming the “other side” all the while.
It probably sounds surprising, but as a pastor I don’t believe we need more prayer. In fact, I would be delighted if there were a whole lot fewer people praying, and a whole lot more people looking deeper into reality, deeper into their own fear and anxiety, and coming to understand their own role in what’s wrong with the world. This is where truth lies, and since God is truth, this is the only way God is found. As that happens, prayer can really be substantive, in line with the heart and will of God. As it often stands now among praying people, prayer is often little more than the (often desperate and angry) request that God change the world and other people to be more like what I think they should be like. Among non-praying people, this same request is made through politics.
Each person in the world can look into this. Religion can help (or hinder!), counseling can help (or hinder!) — many things can help us find truth. For those who call the truth “God” (or vice versa), this is fine. For those who don’t, truth itself should be a worthy enough pursuit.
Yes, we need more people praying, but we need more people praying according to reality, according to the truth about the world and themselves. We don’t need more people asking God to usher in their own kingdoms on earth. That’s the heart of the problem we have now — billions of people each wanting their own kingdom to come and their will to be done, believing of course that this is the same as praying for God’s kingdom and God’s will.