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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

February 2012

~Reconsidering Prayer~



“Later, the judge said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,

 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice

 so that she will not wear me out by continually coming’.” ~Luke 18:4


Members and Friends,


            Have you ever called your senator or representative?  Until recently, I never had.  A part of me believed that an email would be just as effective, since a telephone call to a politician’s office would surely just go to voicemail.  Honestly, another part of me was simply scared to place a telephone call to a politician.  What if I didn’t get an answering machine?  What if a real person actually did pick up?  Would I speak calmly and rationally about issues that keep me awake at night?  Or would my voice go all squeaky?  Would I end up prattling inarticulately?  Worse, what if the operator actually did patch me through to the elected official?  What then?


            I recently placed my very first phone call to my senator’s office in Harrisburg, and it rang about six times.  “This is curious,” I thought, “most answering machines pick up on the second ring.”  That’s when my fears were realized.  A living, breathing person answered the phone (although I’d called at 8:45 a.m.).  She seemed as surprised as I was to hear a human voice.  But she connected me with another early-bird office employee who took notes on my concerns, collected my contact information, and promised to pass my message along to the senator.    


            Now, the politician in question has a long tradition of supporting things I oppose.  It’s a tradition that I suspect he will maintain.  But there was something strangely empowering in the knowledge that I had done what I could.  In some far-flung corner of that green-domed capitol in Harrisburg, maybe in some clerk’s cramped office beneath a back staircase, a minor official had heard my voice and recorded my concerns.  I have no idea what the senator will do with my input, or whether he will ever see it, but I have submitted it.  Much like a prayer.


            Anyone who remembers Jack Brannan will know that he—unlike me—had no qualms about picking up the telephone to voice his concerns.  At his funeral, one year ago, I mentioned that he used to call the church office every Monday in order to express his views on political, social, and religious issues of the day.  (Early in my time at Bower Hill, Jack informed me that he approved of everything I said, and he would let me know otherwise if he changed his mind—which I have no doubt he would have done!)  Jack knew very well that the church secretary and I could do nothing to end the war in Iraq or prevent cuts to public transportation.  And yet, he “phoned-in” his worries because, as he once said, “To me, these are issues of faith, and Bower Hill is my community of faith.”  In other words, his weekly telephone call to the church office was nothing less…than a prayer.  It was an expression of hopes and fears.


            After the funeral service, I was approached by Deborah Acklin, president and CEO of our local public television station, WQED.  She said, “Jack only called you once a week?  He called me every day!”  Saturdays and Sundays included, Jack would call to give his two cents on the previous day’s programming.  In April 2011, Ms. Acklin devoted her WQED newsletter article entirely to Jack, whom she had never met in person, but with whom she had spoken almost daily.


            This is the way of hopes, and wishes, and dreams, and—yes—even fears.  Sometimes we just need to put them out there, to speak them aloud to anyone who might be listening.  At times we just need to give them voice.  And when we do, is it really anything other than prayer?  Of course, prayer is more than asking for things; it’s often just resting in the presence of the Sacred.  But in the days ahead, I invite you to think about the ways that you pray.  How do you voice your hopes and fears for the world…and to whom?  Even if you’re not a pray-er in the traditional sense, I’m sure that you pray.  And the world is made better by your prayers.