Tonight, on Facebook and Twitter, I posted that I was "praying" for Minneapolis, for Chicago, for #BlackLivesMatters, for refugees fleeing violence and seeking safety and, more generically, for anyone and everyone who loves justice, defends and protects the most vulnerable among us, who is under assault, in danger and in need of not only our supportive solidarity, but our active advocacy. This was an uncommon, if not entirely idiosyncratic, expression on my part, as I am not "religious" in what might be called any meaningful sense (though I am a PK and was raised in a religious household). I suspect that many who were brought up in "the (Christian) church" or in some other observant faith opted for divergent paths in their adulthood, as I did, for many different reasons. My particular reason, as unsatisfying as it is unaccountable for, even to myself, is simply that I was never capable of forcing my own mind to accede to certain fundamental requirements of the the most basic articles of theistic "faith." For that reason, I hardly ever claim to "pray" for anyone or anything because it seems to me to be, if not outright duplicitous, at the very least disrespectful.
That said, I do pray. I pray for friends and strangers, for the virtuous and the vicious. I pray for them by their proper names and, much more often, anonymously. I pray for them, for you, for all of us, frequently, passionately and sincerely.
Not that I am ever called upon to do so, but I sometimes wonder how I might explain what I mean when I say that "I pray" to those who would insist that prayer requires, first, a resolute belief in the effective power of prayer or, in what amounts to the same thing, a confidence in the effective power of some supernatural Being to make real the events, things or states of affairs that my prayers solicit, become actual. What follows are some brief, incomplete reflections on what I might say.
Why do I pray? Why do we, why ought we-- all of us, believers and unbelievers alike-- pray? Especially now, when the the solicitations of many prayers are so dangerous, in fact deadly, and when the confidence of believers in the power of prayer ought rightly to be doubted, if not also condemned. what is left that is worth preserving in this bizarre human practice of prayer?