Recently, my friend Susan shared a Prayer for the Homeless distributed by the Church of England during the Christmas season. It was a nice pious prayer. But where is the “drawing near” of the Incarnation? Praying for those-other-than-ourselves who serve “them” turns me off. I was able to say this quite bluntly to Susan because we are good friends and share a mutual understanding that sometimes we need to get off our knees and give legs to our prayers!
Susan agreed. But, she also pushed back in a manner I enjoy so much about her. “Richard, I see it as both/and, not either/or. I assume you do also. The need to give our prayers flesh doesn’t obviate the value and need for prayer.” The fact that I am still ruminating about this suggests there is still something that annoys me.
Yes, prayer is good — essential, in fact. What I am beginning to find lacking in so many pious texts, words and rituals is “incarnational-investment.” Where is the “skin in the game”? Christian prayer needs to include a “…and what about me?” …”where am I in this picture?” Our prayer might be that of an anchorite (I’m reading about Julian these days) or my 97 y/o friend in a nursing home but it requires a “Here am I. Send me.” engagement. A Prayer for the Homeless? Again, nice prayer — harmless and presumably efficacious, just deficient.
Maybe the final arbitrator should be the cold and homeless themselves. Sometimes prayer is used to let ourselves off the hook, feeling warm and cozy.