Of (More) Politics and Prayerlessness

Well, we averted another government shutdown last month. I know that many people must have been praying. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t one of them.

When the government shut down two years ago, I had just begun working at Sojourners, a center-progressive Christian organization committed to articulating the biblical call to social justice. After 19 months of unemployment, I was thankful to be working.

Sojourners is part of a bipartisan coalition called the Circle of Protection, which advocates for “maintaining budget commitments to programs that are essential for poor and hungry people in the United States and around the world.” Two years ago during the shutdown, members of that coalition—and volunteers from as far away as Ohio—stood outside the Capitol and read passages of scripture and prayed, rain or shine, for the Congress and furloughed government workers. Prayers went up through Twitter accounts across the country. You could argue that the government was going to reopen anyway and that it wasn’t an act of God that did it. But I know that there’s something powerful and mysterious that happens when God’s people turn to him and pray.

Yet it shouldn’t take huge events like the threat of a shutdown to bring us to prayer. The Apostle Paul famously wrote to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” He also urged the church in Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing.”

These are convicting words. I like—and voted for—our president and vice president and I still don’t pray for them like I should. I don’t pray for DC’s mayor, although with the number of homicides in our city increasing this year, she definitely could use it.

It’s not because I don’t pray. And it’s not because I don’t pray for others. I guess it’s just hard to imagine that my prayers for my city or my country would really do anything. And honestly, that’s a fair assessment. The power isn’t in my prayers, it’s in the God who hears them.

And I know that God hears our prayers.

What might happen if each of us spent 10 minutes a day praying for our leaders—even the ones we didn’t vote for or particularly like? What if we didn’t just pray for our elected officials, but for world leaders? 

For the next month, I plan to pray regularly for President Obama and Vice President Biden, for Muriel Bowser, the mayor of DC, and for Brianne Nadeau, my city council member. I don’t know what will happen.  But I know that God hears our prayers.

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  • Juliet Vedral is a Washington, DC-based writer and consultant, specializing in faith outreach and writing short, pithy bios. Before striking out on her own, she worked at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Sojourners, and the ONE Campaign. You can find out more about her at julietvedral.com.

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