It’s taken me a while, but I’ve come to learn that my first (and constant) response to most things should be prayer. St. Ignatius of Loyola, an old church leader who has been famously misquoted for centuries, said,
“Let this be the first rule of your undertakings: confide in God as if the success of those undertakings depended completely upon you and not at all upon God; nonetheless give your whole self to the undertakings as if you yourself would be doing nothing in them but God alone would be doing everything.”
In other words, pray as though everything depended on you and work as though everything depended on God. There is an implicit relationship between prayer and action. Choosing to pray is as much an act of faith as taking wise and bold action from a prayerful place.
I’ve been contemplating these words over the last week or so. In light of the internet outrage over the thoughts and prayers being offered up by politicians for the San Bernardino shooting, with little to no political action or policy change being taken to stop future incidents, does St. Ignatius’ offer some insight?
As followers of Christ we are absolutely called to offer up “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.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) We are called to comfort others with the comfort we’ve received and to bear each other’s burdens. This is true of Christians regardless of whether you are in a position of power or not.
But in Romans 13, Paul points out that those who are in authority are there because God has placed them there to serve, and their service is meant to be done for the common good.
I’m all for public leaders who take St. Ignatius’ advice and pray with the knowledge of their own weakness and with the desperation that should come from realizing what life would be like without God’s help. But I hope that those public leaders who put their hope in Christ will also act in the full boldness and freedom that comes from knowing that God is in control. I hope that they will legislate out of the truth that the God they serve “practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” because “in these things [he] delights.” I hope that they will have the courage to lead despite political backlash because they trust that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
People of faith must be people of prayer first. Prayer reaffirms our trust and hope in God. We pray for the Spirit to guide and give grace to act in ways that will be for our and the world’s good and God’s glory.
I leave here an Advent prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.