In a strange turn of events, my hometown of Flint, Michigan is making national headlines once again. The water supply for the city is contaminated with an inordinate amount of lead and other toxic materials. I could go into detail about what led to this crisis, cite the studies done to test the water quality, talk about our inept city and state leadership, and so forth. But I won’t. At least not for this post.
In an unrelated story, the country has once again been hit with another school shooting. At Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, a gunman took to campus in an effort to target Christians. In the rampage, 10 people were killed and another 7 were wounded. Once again, I could use this as opportunity to regurgitate the same discussions about gun violence, gun control, mental illness, campus safety, etc. But I won’t.
Instead, my thoughts about ill situations such as these can be summed up a statement issued by President Obama (specifically about the shooting, but it can definitely apply to other situations): “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” After Obama’s statement, I immediate thought of a really good quote I once heard: “Jesus is more impressed with dirty hands, not dirty knees.”
When I first heard this quote many years ago, I didn’t get it. But after thinking about it more and more and tying it in to the aforementioned situations (and, frankly, anytime somebody suggests we need to do more praying), I start to think that maybe we are misguided in our prayers. As much as we don’t want to face the reality, Obama was right on this one: our thoughts and prayers are not enough. Added to that, perhaps we should start asking ourselves if we’re even praying for the right things. Do we pray for God to do things that we can and should be doing ourselves? Are we spending too much time getting our knees dirty and not enough time getting our hands dirty?
I think that we spend so much time on our knees trying to get God to reveal things for us, that we don’t spend enough time actually looking around for His revelations. God provides us the opportunity to find Him in virtually any situation and through virtually any type of person. God’s revelations could come from annoying co-workers, the morning news, the guy we ran into on the elevator, physical examinations…anything! I guess what I’m trying to say is: we don’t always have to bow down in prayer to find God’s revelations.
Don’t get me wrong. I fervently believe in prayer. More importantly, I believe in the power of prayer; especially in dealing with things that are beyond my or anyone’s control. But, I also believe that prayer is not just about calling on God to ‘do something’ or to ‘reveal something’. Rather, prayer also includes us asking God for the wisdom and the courage necessary for us to experience Him, to live for Him, and to live through Him. After all, that’s all a part of our calling, right?!
I believe that we can get a sense of individual empowerment if we spend enough time on our knees in prayer. But if we stay on our knees begging God to do something for us that we could do ourselves, aren’t we really praying, “Lord, let this cup pass from me” (in other words, “Lord, don’t make me do this…”)? How can we ask God to bless the homeless when we walk right past them everyday? How can we ask God to forgive someone whom we haven’t forgiven yet? How can we ask God for a “financial breakthrough” without applying for a job? How can we ask God to help us get along with people if we deliberately avoid them? How can we pray to God for Flint’s deliverance from this water crisis without playing whatever role we can to help people access clean water? How can we pray for the end of gun violence without doing anything to curb gun access? Can we really expect for God to come down to Earth and write a personal check, payable to the City of Flint for bottles of clean water? Can we really expect God to come down and disarm a nutcase with a gun?
A good friend once told me (and I quote), “we need to be more proactive in our prayers, instead of sitting back waiting for God to come to the rescue“. I couldn’t agree more.
What if our hands got as dirty as our knees?
Holla at me!