I woke up this morning with this on my mind. And yep, just like everything else I write, this will probably make some of you uncomfortable. But has that ever stopped me before?
I have to give you a little background information before I jump into this topic.
Last December, I attended a Christian book club meeting (all Christian women, I'm the youngest by about 20 years) to discuss the book Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith. Without giving you too many details about the book (because it's definitely a worthwhile read), the discussion spiraled somehow into the current state of our Black communities, particularly where the police are concerned, and the disproportionate number of Black people being killed at the hands of police. I sat and listened to most of the women in the room talking about how much our young people needed prayer. One woman said, "Every time my son goes out, I lay hands on him and pray. That's really all we can do. All we can do is pray that the Lord will cover them and guide them should they get into a situation with law enforcement."
*insert record scratch here* Whet?
So I looked up from my plate of delicious h'ors d'oeuvres, and I said, "Umm... That's incredibly inaccurate." At this point, all their old, Christian, judgy eyes were on me. "There is so much more that we can do as a people than just pray. Prayer is great. I grew up in the church. I know prayer works. But it's absurd to think that God makes resources available to us, that he gives us the ability to organize and mobilize, that he gives us voices and the intelligence to formulate arguments, that he allows us access to community leaders and gives us the intelligence to form solutions but all He wants us to do in the face of wrongdoing and blatant brutality and racism is pray. It is completely and absolutely ridiculous to think that prayer is the only solution to ANY problem. I can't accept that."
I've never been snubbed so badly in my life. Those ladies jumped down my throat like I had committed blasphemy. How dare I suggest that prayer isn't the solution? What was wrong with me? They were rude and nasty to me... and these are prominent women in a large church in PG County. Officers. People who hold positions. Needless to say, I fixed my plate of food to go (because I don't leave food, regardless of how mad I may be) and I left that meeting early.
Fast-forward to today...
I'm watching hundreds of people being forced to move from their homes in the Lynnhill Condominium community in Temple Hills, Maryland because instead of the management company paying the utilities like they were supposed to, they have been stealing from the residents. As a result, Pepco and Washington Gas are owed more than a million dollars, and they've cut electricity and gas to the buildings, giving the residents 72 hours to vacate their homes and find someplace else to live. This is a community with shared utilities, so even though most of them were making their payments on time, they are suffering the consequences of someone else's negligence, and because the million dollars could not be raised, these people are, for all intents and purposes, homeless, through no fault of their own. Heartbreaking, right?
Then I scroll my Facebook timeline and see a statement from a prominent megachurch right here in PG County. "Our prayers are with the people in the Temple Hills community that have to vacate their homes. May God wrap His arms around you in your time of need, and comfort you as you endure this difficult time."
This megachurch, by the way, boasts millions of dollars in resources. I know for a fact that the pastor wears a Rolex and drives a Rolls Royce. This isn't hearsay. I've seen them both with my own eyeballs. So instead of them writing a check, or challenging other large churches to match a donation that could save these peoples' homes, they opt instead to offer their prayers.
I immediately took to my computer. Because what the hell.
God is a merciful God. I believe wholeheartedly that He loves us and is faithful to answer us when we pray to Him. But if a person or a community is desperately in need of resources, while you are praying for them, HELP THEM. Try to get them the resources they need. Mobilize. Organize. Put your heads together. Contact county officials. Figure it out. But if you have the resources needed to help them, but all you offer is prayer? Keep you prayers.
If I need food, don't just pray for me. Feed me. If I need clothes, don't just pray for me. Clothe me. If I need resources, don't just pray for me. Help me access the resources I need. Prayer has become a crutch for the Black community. "Well, I prayed for you." That's nice, but it's just not enough, especially if you can do more. I'm not telling you to reach into your own pocket for people, because I understand that sometimes, that's just not an option. But point me in the direction of someone who can help me. Give me the information I need to improve my situation. Educate me. Your prayers mean absolutely nothing when my community is under attack, when I can't feed my children, when I have no electricity. We as a people have to stop leaning on prayer as the end-all-be-all. It's not, and it wasn't ever meant to be. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. You know what that means? It means that it's useless to have faith that God will fix a situation that you aren't diligently working to correct yourself as best you can. I believe God matches effort. Lying in your bed praying that God will bless you with a job you haven't searched or applied for is asinine. Believing that God will send you a spouse that you haven't prepared your life for is ridiculous. Asking God to bless a community of people who are being forced from their homes because their utilities are shut off but you've done NOTHING to help them financially (and I'm speaking about this beautiful shiny megachurch on the hill with a million tithing members) is insulting.
If all you have for me is prayer when I desperately need help, keep your prayers.
Prayer is not the solution to everything.
Prayer is not all we can offer.
Prayer is not all God has called us to do for each other.
People need resources. They need help. They need education. They need programs. They need empowerment. They need advocacy. They need mobilization. They need community. They need prayer, but they need so much more. If you are in a position to help me, or point me in the direction of someone who can, and all you do is pray for me? I'm good. You can keep that prayer. Don't even waste your time. We have got to stop thinking that prayer is the only answer. God tells us to pray without ceasing... but he also tells us to work. To be watchful. To be smart. And to help one another.
I'm not attacking faith. I'm attacking the idea that faith is enough. It's not. Not ever.