“Are you a pray-er or a do-er?”
This dichotomy has become popularised in western culture thanks to Hollywood, general ignorance and perhaps perpetrated by those who misunderstand the nature of prayer or whose agenda includes the undermining of all things spiritual.
The type scene: a community is confronted, trapped and out numbered by the superior strength of their enemy. The cowardly folk give up, huddle together and pray. The hero – a man of action – takes the initiative and with uncommon courage, strength and uncanny luck confronts and destroys the foe.
This caricature, which likely has its roots in observed practice, has grown into a pop theology of prayer for some: prayer is a ‘last resort’, the haven of those who choose ‘inaction’. It is something done only when all other courses of ‘action’ has been exhausted, all hope is lost.
This is an idea you won’t find in the biblical text however. Biblical prayer has never been a replacement or substitute for action. On the contrary. Prayer precedes, inspires and empowers effective action.
We live in a culture where we answer our own prayers. Technology achieves the miraculous, capitalism powers the machines that supply our daily bread, we believe what we can see, touch and taste and measure. We have everything we need but we never have enough of it.
Those are the myths we are told as soon as we are old enough to understand human speech, read, watch TV. They are the modernist doctrines fed to the masses in the glow of monitors & screens. The oil that keeps the cogs running.
For those seeking an alternative, sustainable reality, the revolutionary Jesus of Nazareth who confronted the dominant powers of his day – a man of action – provides an intriguing example of prayer: “…I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”