This I Believe
I believe in God.
I believe in the power of prayer.
But I see these statements as only somewhat connected.
But hearing our prayers and bending to our desire are not the same thing.
On the day that the planes hit the Twin Towers, stories about people who were supposed to be at the WTC or on one of the hijacked planes but weren’t were told and retold with a great deal of urgency. “But by the grace of God” accompanied most of these stories. As in “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Ascribed to English evangelical preacher and martyr, John Bradford, who, while imprisoned, uttered a variant after seeing a criminal being walked to the gallows. In other words, if it had not been for God’s mercy, that would have been me.
What that statement implies, and what I find troubling, is the notion that one person is deserving of God’s mercy while another person is not. In other words, what about all those who had the misfortune of being on those planes? Was God not watching out for them?
In the aftermath of yesterday’s horrific shooting in Arizona, there was much confusion. Rumour and fact were co-mingled and then disseminated. Quickly. Inaccurately. Reports of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s death. Then retracted.
Mistakes happen. And in the age of social media, an incorrect report can spread rapidly while corrections seem to take longer. (Feather story, anyone?) What I found shocking were the tweets that seemed to imply that it was the power of prayer that changed the outcome. That the once-dead Giffords had been restored to life as a result of prayer.
Or the prayer vigil that occurred last night at the close of Shabbat. With people wholeheartedly believing that if only enough people prayed or prayed hard enough, that power could be harnessed to restore Debbie Friedman to health.
Given that Debbie, z”l, died in the early hours of the morning, what must those people be thinking now? Do they feel that they somehow failed their mentor, their teacher, their friend? Or that God failed her?
I believe in God. But not a God whose Hand can be tipped by the prayers (or absence of prayers) of others. Or who chooses to love one person more than another.
I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the ways in which we, God’s children, can be strengthened by joining our voices and souls together.
And I believe in a God who holds us in our grief and brings us out of dark places. Helping us sing, once more, in joy.