“Livin on a Prayer”: A Rejoinder to a Detractor

Several weeks ago, a member of our church wrote a letter to the editor of the Sonoma Index Tribune requesting a Day of Prayer in light of COVID19.  One local resident was critical of the idea, claiming that the community should be focused on action, not prayer, which he claimed is ineffective.   https://www.sonomanews.com/opinion/letters/10915623-181/letters-to-the-editor-april

See my response below.

An April 24th Letter to the Editor featured George Bereschik’s criticism of Warren Jaycox’s proposal that mayor Harvey Logan feature a National Day of Prayer.

The author claims that Sonomans must choose between prayer and “action.” This is an unfortunate example of an either/or fallacy.

Prayer from the Christian tradition is compatible with human acts. The early monastic motto: ora et labora, “prayer and work” encapsulated the daily life of the priest. These men would divide the day between theological duties and physical labor. Major tracts of European lands were made arable by decades, even centuries of backbreaking labor.

If you were to ask one of these men if prayer or labor were more effective, they would assert that each duty has its own ordained place.

Mr. Bereschik puts prayer to his own “empirical” test, citing rising cases of COVID19 after our nation’s March 15th day of prayer, airtight proof in the author’s mind that prayer is ineffective. This is silly logic. Most religious believers don’t treat prayer like rubbing a genie’s bottle in the same way they do not pray and forego wearing a seatbelt.

Prayer is understood as more than just getting things, it is being transformed by God. And if Mr. Bereschik is consistent, he should criticize any human action not explicitly devoted to fighting the coronavirus, including yoga, meditation, leisure reading, or watching Netflix.

Lastly, clergy persons of all traditions are engaged in battling coronavirus in the same ways normal citizens are. One pastor, who works a full-time job as a hospital administrator had his first weekend off in 40 days. He continues to fulfill his ministry (preaching and prayer) and obligations to the state.

Whatever Mr. Bereschik’s personal views about religion, he should not glibly equate prayer with inaction or lead us to somehow believe that those who pray are those who do not act.