Because I call myself an A-theist (someone who doesn’t believe in a human-like god UpThere), people think I can’t, don’t, or won’t pray. In truth, I pray every day, usually early in the morning.
I pray that people find strength and hope, live with reality, forgive, and deal creatively with what life has to offer.
I never pray for divine intervention because I don’t think that works, especially if one believes in free will. I don’t pray for miracles because I don’t believe NoOneUpThere cures one person of cancer but orders another to suffer a horrendous death from the same disease. I’ll never believe in a master puppeteer who lives above the firmament of little old earth and runs the universe.
I have a few favorite prayers, but my number one choice is “Whatever!” because I believe life throws different challenges at us almost on a daily basis (my personal list is very long). “Whatever!” simply says that I need to go to work and meet those challenges head on with the tools my Christ gave me.
No challenge exists that doesn’t demand unconditional love, acceptance of everyone (no exceptions) no matter where they are on their life’s journey, forgiveness of self or others, and a great deal of caring. When I say “Whatever!” and demonstrate agape, I make progress in life—sometimes easily, sometimes with bumps along the way.
I have never met a challenge that I couldn’t resolve one way or another with “Whatever!”
I recently encountered another prayer that I believe encapsulates the heart of Jesus’s message.
I am currently reading, enjoying, and being challenged by Christ in Crisis?: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus, the newest book from Sojourners editor Jim Wallis. I consider Jim a true “evangelical” who is more of a literalist than I am but whose words and actions match. I’d love to teach a course on his book.
I think Jim’s Jesus can be found in Matthew 25:31–46, which tells us to minister to the “least of these” (25:40). Jim’s mission is to have a church (not a building but a community of believers) that stands up for the poor, the marginalized, the homeless, the prisoners, and the outcasts and shows them agape like Jesus would have.
In Christ in Crisis?, Jim tells a story about a Pentecostal woman who served at a feeding ministry every day. Before the doors opened, she always prayed, “Lord, we know you’ll be coming through this line today. Help us to treat you right. Amen.”
I think this a powerful prayer, so I now start my daily meditation with my own variation: “Jesus, I know I am going to meet you today—maybe many times. May I greet you with agape. So be it!”
What do you think the world might be like if we all lived that prayer?