And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.
-Ephesians 6:18 (the NT)
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
-Proverbs 4:6-7 (the Torah/OT)
Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish Regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And God knows the (deeds) that you do.
"Our thoughts and our prayers are with you." What used to be the safest and kindest expression of love and support in times of crisis, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks has become a lightning rod of lately. However, lately it's been attacked for being a call to inaction. The criticism that little has changed in our world and nation as public spaces, schools, and houses of prayer are attacked again and again is fair. We have not made as much progress as needed. But there's more going on in this phrase.
For us as believers, we believe prayer IS an action. While we can pray alone, it is central to our core identity among many world religions to gather for prayer, to pray the same prayer, to have prayer leaders and prayer postures and prayer places and times. We can now say Charleston, Pittsburgh, and Christchurch and all know we are referring to violent shootings of peaceful people... praying. To insist that prayer is not an action is to denigrate the lives of those who gathered in those places. And the same is true of our school shootings. They were in those places to learn to think for the rest of their lives. Schools are gatherings of people deep in thought. We build houses of learning and houses of prayer to foster thoughts and prayers. Because people of wisdom and prayer can change our world for the better.
Anyone can change the world. As my friend David LaMotte reminds me often, we change the world by being in it. So, brothers and sisters, we are called to change it for good. And the first step, the first action, is thoughts and prayers. And I promise, if you gather with me and the pastors and rabbis and imams I'm proud to know, it won't be the last thing you do. It'll be the first of many good things. After the Pittsburgh shooting, I attended Friday evening service at Dor Tamid. And last week, after the Christchurch tragedy, Pastor Gray attended prayer service at the mosque on Friday. Brothers and sisters, prayer, with our neighbors is a holy act. This Lent, I encourage you to pray for and with people you've never prayed for and with ever before. Your thoughts and prayers are needed to change this world.