Prayer that turns the world upside down

Not in church

There’s been a fair amount of ridicule and criticism offered to the Prime Minister recently over his suggestion that we pray for Australian farmers. Most is predictable and, frankly, understandable, since, as I’ve written previously, Christians shouldn’t necessarily expect people with vastly different assumptions about the world to comprehend their beliefs and practices.

But prayer does become a practice worthy of critique when it is used in such a way as to shield the church from the necessity of being an alternative, witnessing, radical Christ-centred community in the world.

Whenever we pray for rain without needing to be a church that, in its common life, challenges the habits of consumerism, disposability, and disconnection from creation — habits that contribute to climate change — our prayers are a barrier to discipleship.

Whenever we pray for refugees without needing to be a church that, in its common life, challenges abuse and racism, and welcomes the stranger, our prayers are a barrier to discipleship.

Whenever we pray for religious freedoms without needing to be a church that, in its common life, challenges the denigration of other faith groups, whether Christian or otherwise, our prayers are a barrier to discipleship.

Whenever we pray for marriage in Australia without needing to be a church that, in its common life, challenges domestic abuse, infidelity, and male dominance, and seeks to foster healthy, lifelong partnerships among its married members, our prayers are a barrier to discipleship.

And so forth. If our prayers are the end of our concern, they are the end of our discipleship. Indeed, our prayers may testify against us, and we should be willing to accept their judgement.

[A slightly amended version of this is now posted over at the Common Grace blog: http://www.commongrace.org.au/prayer_that_turns_the_world_upside_down