Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Prayers for Such a Time as This

Perhaps if you live half-way around the world from central Oklahoma, or maybe on the moon, you haven't heard that an EF5 tornado left a gash at some points 2.5 miles wide through Moore, Oklahoma.  Well, it has.  I was in Midwest City, Oklahoma on May 3, 1999 when another EF5 went through Bridgecreek, Moore, Del City, Midwest City, and Choctaw.  It was devastating.  It was traumatizing.  It was something that we learned how to respond to natural disasters on such a grand scale and then went on to take what we learned to other areas and share with them our discoveries.  We did that because that's just how we roll here in Oklahoma. 

I know everyone handles things differently-- the stress, the trauma, the sorrow--but I just don't understand how things become so argumentative during these times.  That is probably because when devastating things like EF5 tornadoes occur, it strikes me as the time to put away ideology, the need to one up or even 'be right,' and just listen, weep, and pray.  Now too, more than ever, prayer is coming under the gun.

There have always been people who simply do not understand why others have faith.  There always will be.  But, and maybe I am wrong about this, it just seems that there was a 'be and let be' attitude in the past.  Maybe I just didn't see it.

There was an article on on Who Hears #PrayersForOklahoma.  It was noted that many people post on twitter and other social media sites using the hash tag #PrayersForOklahoma as if it is somehow a magical incantation that takes care of everything, particularly responsibility.  One British comedian even responded to other celebrities "sending prayers" with the snarky comment "I only sent money."  But the article wasn't all snark, and I appreciate that snark didn't seem to win out.  (By the way, Mr. Gervais, thank you for your contribution to relief efforts.  Thanks to Rhianna, Beyonce and Katy for the prayers.)

It seems that those who are lashing out against the "in lip service only" people of faith, are just as bad themselves.  I too hate when the tenets and rituals of my faith are tossed around lightly by those who do not take seriously what it means to pray--which I would say means that we place ourselves in the position to respond, to be changed ourselves, to care.  To my thinking, if I am praying that people are helped, loved, protected, then I might hear "well, what are you going to do about it." 

But here is the thing, there are people whose faith is deeply rooted in connecting in communion with the divine.  There are those who have little to no faith, but in times of devastation realize that there is something bigger than us, and seeking that which is greater is important, even if they don't get it.  People need to pray.

There is a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes, but I suppose even that is changing.  But if you aren't hip deep in muck and mire, in debris and shattered and splintered wood and lives, don't condemn anyone else who is who seeks to cry out to a higher power.  It's rude.  As a clergy I have allowed people space to reject, deny, and loathe God when their lives are crumbling around them.  I figure God is big enough for that, and God will show them, perhaps through me, absolute and unconditional love that won't let go when times are tough.

On that note...
I have a book entitled "Guerrillas of Grace:  Prayers for the Battle" by Ted Loder who asks the question, "How shall I pray?"

How shall I pray?
   Are tears prayers, Lord?
   Are screams prayers,
      or groans
          or sighs
              or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,
    or clenched fists
        or the cold sweat that trickles down my back
             or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will you accept my prayers Lord,
     my real prayers,
          rooted in the muck and mud and rock of my life,
     and not just pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged
          bouquet of words?

Will you accept me Lord,
      as I really am,
          messed up mixture of glory and grime?

Lord, help me!
Help me to trust that you do accept me as I am,
that I may be done with self-condemnation
     and self-pity,
          and accept myself.

Help me to accept you as you are, Lord:
and yet to trust
   that your madness is wiser
          than my timid, self-seeking sanities,
and that nothing you've ever done
    has really been possible,
so I may dare to be a little mad too.

Lord, hear our prayers for such a time as these.

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