Can you still be cool and pray? I stumbled upon a discussion amongst manly Christian men, the kind who love Wild at Heart and in-your-face preaching by pastors with untucked shirttails, and who harbor visions of standing up to thugs and infidels. They were discussing how best to fight evil in the world. I suggested we all pray without ceasing.
I’m not sure when prayer became associated with cowardly piety, but that’s certainly how some of these men see it. I can understand resentment toward those who offer brief prayers in lieu of physical help to those in need. I’ve also seen large churches forego helping the poor and needy in their very congregations but keep them on the prayer roll at the same time they are sparing no expense on ornate buildings and concerts with big-name Christian bands. Prayer can indeed be nothing more than heartlessness disguised as concern.
At the same time, I’m troubled when I hear people speak of prayer as if it is merely the expression of sentiment, as if it is separated from the practical, physical world of action. We would do well to remember that the Church fathers, though they differed in many respects, were singular in their attention to prayer. It was Paul who urged us to pray ceaselessly, an admonition too many of us subtly relegate to hyperbole. Polycarp prayed night and day for all the Church. Saint Anthony battled demons in the desert.
In other words, to regard prayer as something separate from the “doing” of the physical world is to make a grave mistake about what takes place in the seen and unseen places. I suspect we make this mistake because we are so shoddy at prayer, offering scant minutes a day rather than spending significant time in it.