the language of God

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
For we know that You have made the world in a way that man must find his own path to peace within himself and with his neighbor.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For you have already given us the resources with which to feed the entire world- if we would only use them wisely.
We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to root out prejudice,
For you have already given us eyes with which to see the good in all men- if we would only use them rightly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power to clear away the slums and to give hope-if we would only use our power justly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For you have already given us great minds with which to search out cures and healing, if we would only use them constructively.
Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.

~Jack Riemer
Likrat Shabbat

This poem was used by Harold Kushner in his book When bad things happen to good people. I’ve been wrestling with several ideas he presents–but for now I’ll stick with this. In one section he discusses how God speaks to humans, how God speaks to the earth. Kushner maintains that humans are the ‘language of God.’ God does not simply yell down to us from the clouds–but speaks in us and through us. As we listen to one another we hear a prophetic voice calling from the wilderness of life, we hear a story teller speaking of the wonders of God, and we hear a child singing songs about God’s love.

In the academic setting we spend a lot of time talking about ideas, theories, proposals of a better way of life, critiquing what we see–but grasping, taking hold of that vision always seems out of reach. I do not doubt that all this discussion is useful–love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Perhaps this is the “mind” time…But I still wonder if we are too busy trying to figure out how to parse the verbs God is using that we are completely missing the language with which God is using to speak to us–each other.

If you’ve ever been to a Shakespearean play, you realize after about the first 10 minutes that you will not be able to understand every word that the actors are speaking–no matter how slowly they speak, or clearly they pronounce their words. You learn, however, to let the words wash over you, to catch the main ideas, themes, and patterns the story evolves into. I guess sometimes I get frustrated with trying to figure out every word of God–I’m not a systematic thinker. Instead, I desire to see the Word of God wash over me, through people, ideas, themes, and patterns of life and relationships. This makes sense with why we would pray “to do, and to become instead of just wish.”


One comment

  1. firescloudsandwanderings · ·

    A beautiful poem. It definitely gets at the idea that when we pray, we are not simply asking God to solve the world’s problems. We are actually inviting ourselves into the resolution. When we pray, we begin to take on the heart of God, empathizing where God empathizes, crying where God cries, hurting where God hurts. Prayer illumines our eyes to begin to see from God’s perspective. And thus, when we begin to encapsulate our heart in God’s, it’s difficult to not help in the world’s hardships.

    You’re brilliant Kelsey.

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