Prayer is Nice – Cash is Better


     I believe in prayer. I practice various forms of it every day, several times a day—from intercessory prayer to glad-hearted prayer to centering prayer. Prayer is spiritual fuel that gives me power to follow the path that opens before me. And I’m starting to think that all this prayer is finally unplugging my ears. I heard someone else’s desperate prayer on Facebook.

 Praying+Hands_tattoo_138 Deviantart    The literal request was for prayers. That’s what you ask for when it appears tacky to ask for cash. A young couple with three children was in need. Both parents had been let go from their jobs and their severance package was coming to an end. They live in an apartment smaller than the one in pre-children days. They want jobs. They want to work. They are educationally over-qualified for most hourly jobs. Employers aren’t stupid. They don’t want to hire someone who is likely to leave just when they’ve learned a low end management or labor job.

     But the way of big business in America seems to involve sending jobs outside the country. A lot of good that does for our countrymen and women who need work. And the capitalistic system gives tax advantages to businesses who won’t support its own citizens? Is that capitalism or shooting yourself in the foot?

     At some point, these businesses may achieve lower costs to produce their products, but what good does it do if there’s no one who can purchase them? You can’t make money for your investors if no one has a job to buy your goods. Big business today has created a greater need to support those who can’t find work. Then they curse the very people they’ve laid off, accusing them of abusing the system. Does this make sense? I know, I know, it’s more complex than this…according to those with the money.

     The children of Israel had a more equitable system in place. It was called the Year of Jubilee. Every fifty years, property rights, slave contracts, etc., were ended and things went back to their original owners. Not literally of course, but to the descendants of the owners. It was designed to return people to equal status. One or two generations could work hard, buy up property, contract with others to work for them (servanthood), but they were aware that once the Year of Jubilee arrived, everything started over. Those born into wealth might be better educated and capable of advancing faster from their knowledge, but they had to do it themselves. Those who lived off their ancestors’ work without developing a work ethic were in for a rude awakening. Why aren’t the biblical literalists pushing for a Year of Jubilee these days?

     I’m sorry. This wasn’t mean to be a political statement. What do I know about economics? It’s a statement about prayer.

     Many people responded on Facebook to a mother’s cry for prayer. They said things like, “You are in our prayers,” and “Our prayers are with you.” How nice. No sarcasm here. I believe God answers prayer.

     And yet, in my understanding of God from the New Testament, I am the temple of the living God. God dwells within me. If I truly believe this claim of its inspired authors, and if God is a God of power who answers prayer, then I’m part of the answer to the prayers of those in need. If I turn a blind eye, God turns a blind eye.

     What kind of power does God have to hear the cries of those in need if my ears are closed? What kind of power does God reserve for the faithful who love and serve in spirit and in truth?   

     As usual for biblical terms, the concept of “power” is sometimes taken the wrong way. For example, when the apostle Paul is scolding the church in Corinth for their haughty attitude, he says when he arrives on the scene, “I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power (1 Cor. 4:19-20).

     Power here doesn’t mean “strength,” it means using your ability and resources to do what you’re supposed to do. A better word might be “action.” When you’re all talk and no action, the kingdom of God is not present. God’s power is found in your actions and in my actions, not in our words alone.

     That’s why the prayer of the righteous (James 5:16) is effective and powerful. Those who do what is right accompany their words with actions. The appropriate response to prayer isn’t always cash. Sometimes the need is better met with a phone call, a shoulder to cry on, a word of encouragement, a referral, an hour of your time, a healing touch. But often, cash.

     So God is answering one family’s prayer today—at least, the portion of the power of God that dwells within me. The other portion is in you.

     I confess: Today’s title may be a little misleading. Cash isn’t always better. If you’re using the postal service, a check is better.

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