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Prayer is Power

When I was a priest in Massachusetts, Archibshop Tutu came to preach on the occasion of his granddaughter's baptism. Bishop Tutu began his sermon by thanking us -- for praying for the end of apartheid. Your prayers, he said, helped to end apartheid. He cited the case of a nun who lived as a hermit in the mountains of California. She wrote Bishop Tutu to tell him that she got up every morning at 3 am to pray -- for an hour, for an end to apartheid. "They didn't stand a chance," Bishop Tutu said -- "They didn't stand a chance against a nun praying at 3 am -- in the mountains of California." The "they" he was referring to were the principalities and powers, whose main purpose -- if not sole purpose, is to preserve the status quo. And to protect their hegemony, at whatever cost. Prayer is power. Different from the power of the principalities and powers, but power nonetheless. Paul knew this. "I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). The power of prayer can take on the principalities and powers -- and, at least in the case of apartheid -- according to the profound witness of Desmond Tutu, can help to dismantle them. May it be so.


Dearly Beloved,

"The prayers of a righteous man availeth much", so says Sean Connery to Harrison Ford in one of the Indiana Jones films.

Sean Connery is quoting an exhortation from James about the power of prayer and the need to articulate our desires and condition to others and to God so that the goodness of truth may become manifest in the here and now.

The great American Quaker Rufus Jones writes about the power of corporate prayer as a kind of "soul force". Jones a friend to Mahatmas Gandhi borrowed the term Satyagraha, a Sanskrit word that means "holding firmly to the truth". Satyagraha is a powerful form of prayer that speaks truth to the divine and earthly powers. It insists that the truth of goodness, the rule of justice and the power of love reign supreme as the guiding principles in all human relations.

Soul force is a powerful agent for change. Its power knocks down the towers of repressive principalities as it builds the social justice foundations of better nations. Soul force helped birth the modern India nation state. Soul force informed a sensibility that ended Apartheid in South Africa and helped it to reconcile and heal the nations deep wounds after its demise. Soul force transformed the culture of America through the adoption of civil rights laws. The prayers of the righteous do indeed availeth much.

Our personal prayers help us to articulate our desires, form clarity about our needs, communicate those needs, engage dialog to understand implications of our desires, discern terms and conditions, design strategies and plans to achieve desires and come to terms with eventual outcomes. Based on truth prayer bridges pedestrian desires with a divine wholeness that places the individual at the center of God's universe. It opens up the possibilities and potentials of a connected self to God, family, friends and a supportive community united in common purpose.

We don't always get what we pray for but God's wisdom has elevated the condition of the communicant by placing him in a supportive community of prayer stakeholders affirming the unity, goodness and truth of the beloved made one in the Holy Spirit. The Word has become Flesh.


Peace and prayers to all the beloved,


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