One of my colleagues has written in relation to this: “Prayer is about joining our lives and actions to God’s intentions for the world.” I agree, but the struggle for all of us is getting from “thoughts and prayers” to a reality that is different from the one we find ourselves in – which is, in a very real sense, what the season of Advent is about.
The biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann says of Advent: “Advent asks if we are bold and sharp enough to speak the hurts that belong to our weary world. It asks if we are ready and open enough for a newness to be given. It asks if we know the name of the Father to whom we belong, of the Lord whom we confess, of the coming one for whom we wait, and if we trust that one enough to relinquish the old world.”
There are moments, such as the one we are living in, when events force a profound dis-ease with the way things are. That is how it should be. The events of our own particular time and place in history should awaken in us, as people of faith, a readiness for, and openness to, a “newness to be given.”
This is where prayer does indeed have a place in all this. Of all the things that prayer is, it is in part to “prepare the way of the Lord” in us. In fact, if that were all prayer is, it would be enough – to prepare the way of the Lord in us. And if our prayers are not merely to be the sacred equivalent of good thoughts, then they must have “feet” to them, they must direct us in a “way.” Fredrick Buechner has written, “If you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.”
There is much that is confusing and frightening going on right now. We must “speak the hurts that belong to our weary world.” But we are a people of the Advent of our God, and our faith must not be defined by our fears, but by our hope that “every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Isaiah 40:4-5)