Prayer as Social Action

Richard Rohr
 The Politics of Prayer
Monday, December 28, 2020   I’ve often said that we founded the Center for Action and Contemplation to be a place of integration between action and contemplation. I envisioned a place where we could teach activists in social movements to pray—and encourage people who pray to live lives of solidarity and justice. As we explained in our Center’s Radical Grace publication in 1999: We believed that action and contemplation, once thought of as mutually exclusive, must be brought together or neither one would make sense. We wanted to be radical in both senses of the word, simultaneously rooted in Tradition and boldly experimental. We believed . . . that the power to be truly radical comes from trusting entirely in God’s grace and that such trust is the most radical action possible. [1] To pray is to practice that posture of radical trust in God’s grace—and to participate in perhaps the most radical movement of all, which is the movement of God’s Love. Contemplative prayer allows us to build our own house. To pray is to discover that Someone else is within our house and to recognize that it is not our house at all. To keeping praying is to have no house to protect because there is only One House. And that One House is Everybody’s Home. In other words, those who pray from the heart actually live in a very different world. I like to say it’s a Christ-soaked world, a world where matter is inspirited and spirit is embodied. In this world, everything is sacred; and the word “Real” takes on a new meaning. The world is wary of such house builders, for our loyalties will lie in very different directions. We will be very different kinds of citizens, and the state will not so easily depend on our salute. That is the politics of prayer. And that is probably why truly spiritual people are always a threat to politicians of any sort. They want our allegiance, and we can no longer give it. Our house is too big. If religion and religious people are to have any moral credibility in the face of the massive death-dealing and denial of this era, we need to move with great haste toward lives of political holiness. This is my theology and my politics: It appears that God loves life—the creating never stops. We will love and create and maintain life. It appears that God is love—an enduring, patient kind. We will seek and trust love in all its humanizing (and therefore divinizing forms. It appears that God loves the variety of multiple features, faces, and forms. We will not be afraid of the other, the not-me, the stranger at the gate. It appears that God loves—is—beauty: Look at this world! Those who pray already know this. Their passion will be for beauty.  

[1] Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace, anniversary edition (December 1999).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Prayer as Political Activity,” Radical Grace, vol. 2, no. 2 (March–April 1989).

Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital.

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