Like many of you, I have an obsessive need to know what is going on. In this postmodern, media-blitzed cable news world, it feels almost possible to attain this admittedly unattainable goal. When news coverage of big – and not so big – stories is available 24/7/365, I am like the proverbial moth drawn to the flame. Or in this case, drawn to the glow of the tv/computer monitor.
I’ve spent inordinate time and emotional energy in front of screens this past week or so. The sheer devastation of Harvey and Irma, and, this just in, an earthquake in Mexico and another hurricane, Jose, churning in the Gulf of Mexico, has kept me clicking back and forth like crazy.
It beggars the mind even to attempt to grasp the real and the potential losses in life, in dollars, in livelihoods, in property, etc. My friend Carol, from Houston, texted back a description of her situation. “It’s really horrible. I lost my car and all the contents of my apt. My kids and grandson all live in Plano and so my son Howie took over and decided to come pick me up! I’m leaving Houston for now to stay with them up in Plano until I figure out my next move!! I’m totally out of sorts and don’t know what’s coming next just know I’m putting my life in my kids’ hands for a change – what do I need – prayers!!!”
So I’ve been praying… Not for miracles or flood relief or just and equitable insurance. I’m asking the Holy One to give Carol strength, Carol and all of the many victims in Houston and the Caribean and the residents of Florida… The list spirals out of control like the wicked winds of the hurricanes.
What does prayer do in this case? If I’m supposed to know the answer to that, then I’m in trouble. All I can explain is what I hope it does for Carol et al. By praying to God, my words, along with the collective prayers of the world, add a kind of energy and intentionality to the compassion the victims experience. Our combined prayers are a reminder to the victims that they are not alone or forgotten. In this way, the compassion is a sacred compassion.
Or not. I can’t prove any of this to you. I just know that my faith leads me to believe that my love and hope for others is channeled through God who then channels it back through us. It’s a continuous loop.
I imagine folks like Bill Mahrer, famous for detesting religion, would roll their eyes at the above sentiment. “So great! You’re praying, and people are homeless and overwhelmed. How helpful.” Let me hasten to reassure you that prayer alone is essentially meaningless without deeds. It matters less that I’m praying for victims of hurricanes and more that I’m sending them tzedakah. I get that.
Maybe the praying is more for me and my soul. Maybe it’s a way to connect to the sacred in the midst of these terrible natural disasters. It gives me a chance not to feel so overwhelmed by the darkness. By asking God to give Carol strength and resilience, I am in fact asking the same for me, because day by day, minute by minute, who knows what will happen next? Flood, storm, hurricane, fire, water… I know I can’t figure this out alone. And I know God’s presence comforts me.
This is one of those “Praise God and pass the ammunition” moments. We are all needed to help alleviate suffering and injustice. We do it with cash, with donations of clothing and food, and with heartfelt prayer.