Why I Pray: Part 2, Solidarity

I've looked but I can't find where I got this quote, but I remember it clearly and it is Reason #1 for why I pray:

When you pray, you stand in solidarity with all those who pray.
I pray because people around the world are dying and god-forsaken. They have nowhere to turn. They are helpless and powerless. Prayer represents that moment when all hope is gone and you turn your face heavenward looking for aid, comfort or solace. Looking for a miracle.

When I pray I stand in that hopelessness. I place myself in the position of those who can do nothing put pray. Prayer is their only option, only recourse. It is the only move available to them. Life forces people to their knees. So I go to my knees to be with them, to pray with them. In this sense, Jesus was God's prayer.

In short, the act of prayer, for me at least, is a participation in the vast lament of humankind. Prayer is a visceral, collective weeping toward the heavens.

This might sound depressive and dark. And to be clear, this isn't the only reason I pray. But it is one of the reasons. And I find it a very poignant and powerful reason and motivation.

At the end of their album War U2 has a song called 40. The song is inspired by Psalm 40. In the early years of U2 they would end their concerts with the song 40. And after the band had left the stage the crowds would remain behind, in the dark, singing over and over:
How long?
How long?
You can get a taste of this from this clip of the ending of the Live at Red Rocks concert filmed in 1983:

The point of all this is that I think prayer is similar to standing in that crowd singing "How long? How long?" Humanity cries out, all across the globe, praying "How long? How long?" In the past, given my religious doubts, I judged those cries. Worried about the metaphysics. Wondered if those prayers made any difference.

But I now feel those objections are obscene in the face of all that pain and lament. The proper response, for me at least, was to simply shut up and add my voice to chorus.

To stand in the sea of humanity and sing "How long? How long?"

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7 thoughts on “Why I Pray: Part 2, Solidarity”

  1. Thanks for posting on this and sharing openly about your prayer life. I've had similar struggles with prayer and scripture, needing time to detox from what I always knew to something new God was opening in me. This reminds me that prayer is about aligning our hearts with what is important to the Lord, and giving ourselves the space to get close enough to him even when it feels that nothing is happening. That's the discipline of prayer.

  2. Kahlil Gibran maybe?

    "When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet."

    from "The Prophet"

  3. Thank you Dr. Beck,

    My prayer life has been zilch for many years.
    I continue to experience intense anger and distrust towards God. That's shameful to admit but it's the straight truth about my utter failure of faith.

    Sharing your journey of prayer here is greatly encouraging and eye-opening. It provides a genuine, empathetic, passionate reason and focus for prayer. There's also a confidence in the "validity" of the prayer as it is lifted on behalf of someone else's legitimate need vs. my own selfish want.

    Thank you for being real (vs. the overworn cliches by Christians who spout off why we SHOULD be praying).

    Gary Y.

  4. This post speaks to me. Prayer as an act of solidarity. You argue from your heart, not with a theological superstructure.

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