If you’re doing it right, prayer is always political

If you’ve ever seriously entertained prayer as a spiritual discipline, you know that it changes you. It forces you (sometimes kicking and screaming) to broaden your perspective and abandon positions that put your interests ahead of other people and the common good.

And that means prayer — authentic, honest-to-God prayer — is always political. But it’s not about your politics. It’s about God’s.

Richard Rohr’s “Politics of Prayer”

In What the Mystics Know, Franciscan author, Richard Rohr, describes prayer in terms of house-building:

To pray is to build your own house. To pray is to discover that Someone else is within your house. To pray is to recognize that it is not your house at all. To keep praying is to have no house to protect because there is only One House. And that One House is everybody’s home ….

Be careful of such house-builders, for their loyalties will lie in very different directions. They will be very different kinds of citizens, and the state will not so easily depend on their salute. That is the politics of prayer. And that is probably why truly spiritual people are always a threat to politicians of any sort.

Did you catch what he’s saying?

To pray is to discover that you are at odds with politicians — not in league with them.

“Truly spiritual people are always a threat to politicians of any sort.” – Richard Rohr

Politics in the Kingdom of God 

When you strip it down to the essentials, prayer is an encounter with God. It’s an invitation to step beyond the world of the things you can see and hear and touch, and step into an up-close-and personal experience of Reality itself.

But we don’t come to our encounter with God as a blank slate. When we pray, we bring our experiences, opinions and biases with us. That’s what makes prayer so difficult — we have to consciously set aside our personal baggage and let God change us into better versions of ourselves.

Tribalism is quick. It’s easy. And it’s the total opposite of the kingdom of God.

Politics exploits the fact that human beings are tribal. We gravitate toward groups and labels because they simplify our lives. They help us define our place in the world.

Political affiliations are shortcuts we use to put ourselves and other people into buckets of attitudes and beliefs. If you’re a Republican, you love guns and NASCAR; if you’re a Democrat, you love taxes and Birkenstocks.

But it’s never that simple, is it?

Prayer isn’t about entering the kingdom of God. It’s about letting the kingdom of God enter you.

Prayer breaks down walls and divisions. It forces us to abandon our tribal mentalities and recognize that we’re all part of the same tribe and the same family. 

We’re all God’s children and the language of prayer is love: God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for each other. 

That’s the politics of prayer because it’s the politics of the kingdom of God.

Maybe I’m naive. Then again, maybe we all are.

Prayer and politics are complicated topics. I get it. And I’m fully aware of the scope of the challenges we’re up against. Poverty. Terrorism. Racism. Climate Change. Economic injustice. The list goes on and on.

I don’t have easy solutions for any of these problems. (Neither do you.)

But here’s what I know for sure: If you’re a person of faith and you find yourself more committed to a politician or a political party than you are to the kingdom of God, then it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

It’s time to take off your partisan blinders and start seeing the world through God’s eyes. It’s time to pray.