Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Holding Activists in Prayer: Some Suggestions

During these challenging times, those who are called to work for justice and peace need spiritual and emotional support more than ever before. I hope that this reflection inspires activists and mystics, contemplatives and prophets, to see how we can work together for the good of society in holy obedience to the Spirit of Love and Peace.

Those who are called to a life of prayer rather than of activism can be of great help in promoting peace and justice if they pray in the right spirit (see quotes from Gandhi).

I know from personal experience how empowering it is to feel lifted up by the prayers of faithful Friends, and of those in other faith-based spiritual communities. When I have traveled in the ministry, I have usually asked for a letter of support from my Meeting. Not everyone in Meeting goes with me on my journey, of course; but I feel their spiritual presence, which helps me when challenges arise. When I return to my home meeting, I share with Friends the letter of support, signed by Friends in far off places, and give a report on my journey. These travels in the ministry bring us closer to each other, to distant Friends, and to Spirit. This is how I see a minute of concern. Everyone doesn’t have to carry the weight of this concern or act upon it, but if we approve a minute of concern, we agree to share the spiritual burden through prayer and words of encouragement. This is how we align ourselves with God and with those who are trying to do God’s will by working for peace and justice.

When my wife had a concern about starting a Housing Commission in our city, she brought this concern to our Peace and Social Concerns Committee, which approved a letter of support. This letter was also approved by our monthly meeting for business. When the time came for this proposal to be considered by our City Council, five members of Orange Grove Meeting showed up to speak in support. My wife, who is not a Quaker, was enormously impressed by our prayerful Quaker process, and by the faithful activism of Friends. For my wife, going to City Council meeting to speak on behalf of low-income residents of our city is a form of worship—“praying with one’s feet” is how Rabbi Joshua Heschel called it. When I attended this City Council meeting, I felt supported not only by the presence of Friends and the letter from our meeting, but also by the Spirit. This is what I experience when I am involved in faith-based activism. 

Here are some queries that I hope Ministry and Oversight will consider using and sharing with Friends:

  •          How do we hold in the Light those who are called to peace and justice or environmental work?
  •          How has prayer made a difference in your personal life and in supporting those you know who are involved in social concerns?
  •          How do we express appreciation and support for those who are making personal sacrifices for the sake of justice and peace?

Gandhi on prayer and activism

For me, Gandhi has been a model of how to connect the spiritual and activist life. Famously, Gandhi said: “Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either.” These quotations by Gandhi can help us to see the deep connection between prayer and action, and can be used for worship sharing along with the queries.

  • ·         I can give my own testimony and say that a heartfelt prayer is undoubtedly the most potent instrument that man possesses for overcoming cowardice and all other bad old habits. (YI, 20-12-1928, p420).
  • ·         As I believe that silent prayer is often a mightier [force] than any overt act, in my helplessness I continuously pray in the faith that the prayer of a pure heart never goes unanswered. (YI, 22-9-1927, p321)
  • ·         Prayer is not …. idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. (H, 14-4-1)
  • ·         Silence of the sewn-up lips is no silence. One may achieve the same result by chopping off one's tongue, but that too would not be silence. He is silent who, having the capacity to speak, utters no idle word. (H, 24-6-1933, p5)946, p80)

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