Pray and Work
by Dan Lebo
With this most recent shooting we have seen the outpouring of “thoughts and prayers” from world leaders, celebrities, and everyday people like you and me for the victims and families of this present iteration of senseless violence and hatred. We have also witnessed an outpouring of those frustrated with “thoughts and prayers,” who wish to see action instead.
As I try to wrap my head around another shooting (I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to say that), I try to find words to understand. Words like tragic, terrifying, incomprehensible, evil, and infuriating all come to mind. As a pastor, what am I supposed to say to church members? As a person of faith, what should I say to myself?
This morning in our Sunday School class we learned about a Latin phrase used by Benedictine Monks while reading the book Half Truths by Adam Hamilton. The phrase is ora et labora, and it means “Pray and Work.” Essentially it’s a reminder that the life of faith is one of contemplation and action.
We pray because we recognize that the forces we confront in these acts of hatred, evil, and violence are far beyond our ability to face alone. We pray to make sense of the senseless. We pray because we know that without God we don’t stand a chance. We pray because we know that death can only be defeated with resurrection. We pray for comfort for those who are afflicted, be they victims, families of victims, victims by association, or the countless onlookers across the world who are heartbroken and feel helpless.
We also pray for courage to stand up and speak out against atrocity and all that we know in our hearts to be wrong. We pray for wisdom and understanding to seek the best way forward and to resist the urge to write off entire populations of people because of what those who distort the message use it for. We pray for our hearts to break further so that we no longer accept these events as something to expect.
But we also work. We work because prayer does not remove our responsibility to act. Rather, prayer inspires us to act, to be co-laborers with with God in our efforts to bring the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. God has called us to be agents of change. God has called us to be proclaimers of peace. God has called us to be prophets of justice. God has called us to be people who cling to mercy and love and life when facing the principalities and powers that would seek to tear us apart.
Let us always remember that thoughts and prayers are never an excuse for our inaction and indifference.
We are a people who believe that thoughts and prayers are important, even essential, but are never enough. Ora et Labora. Pray and Work. Pray for an end of violence and hatred. Work for an end of violence and hatred. Pray for a brighter tomorrow. Work for a brighter tomorrow. Pray because we can’t do it without God. Work because God won’t do it without us.