The Common Good

The First Step: Let Us Pray

Photos of Joseph Kony (L) and George Clooney (R) via Getty Images.
Photos of Joseph Kony (L) and George Clooney (R) via Getty Images.

George Clooney and others were arrested on the steps of the Sudanese embassy last week to call attention to the violence in South Sudan. The actor-activist, along with Jon Prendergast, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations committee and conducted a series of media interviews to explain the situation in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.

I applaud Clooney for using his star power to shine a light on the violence in South Sudan. Now that we see the problem the question for us is: what does this situation require of me personally?

Similarly, when we watch the Kony 2012 video that, for all of its flaws, informs people about the crimes against humanity of Joseph Kony and the efforts to bring him to justice, the same question arises.

The world is full to the brim with tragedy. We see the violence in Syria, people protesting their government are killed by their own government. We see world leaders who cannot come to consensus about the right thing to do.

What action will at once end the violence, protect the people, and depose an illegitimate government while not increasing violence in a complicated and volatile region of the world?

War drags on in Afghanistan, and a United States warrior who has seen much too much war, goes on a rampage, killing innocent Afghans, including children.  

And we observe all of this within the context of the challenges of our own lives. We face our own difficulties — economic, physical, psychological, spiritual, family, and on and on.

What is God asking us to do? What is possible for us to do?

I say: Let us pray. This is the first step.

I believe in the worth of prayer. It has been a source of peace for me since I was a little girl saying my prayers at bedtime.The more I try to understand the phenomenology of prayer, the more the words to describe it slip away from me at the very moment when I think I have them.

Like God and many spiritual things, prayer is a mystery. It is an open door to the transcendent; it is a two-way communication. It is more than a wish list. It is a kind of surrender to faith that there is a God, a Divine essence, a presence, a Love that is so profound that it can make sense out of what to us seems a chaotic mess.  Prayer becomes a way of knowing.  It relies on the truth of the wisdom that prayer changes things.  Biblical wisdom teaches us: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

We also know from Biblical wisdom that in conflict situations, “the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4) It is very easy to become weary of all of the trouble in the world. We do not know what to do. Yet, Jesus instructed us: “Take my yoke upon you, learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew11:29-30)

We are not all famous Hollywood actors or videographers, but we can all pray in faith believing that God is able. We can pray that the love of God overcome the evil in the hearts of all the world’s war criminals.  We can give thanks for the people working hard to help us know for what and for whom we ought to pray.

WARNING: When we pray, God gives us an assignment.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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