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Poverty & Prayer

We were talking about prayer this week. Many of my friends have been exposed to a kind of “name it and claim it” kind of theological rhetoric. They hear the ‘prosperity’ gospel expounded by radio and television evangelists. It always surprises me that they are not angrier at God than they are, for my friends are intimately familiar with poverty, at least poverty as we know it in the West. No amount of ‘claiming it’ will change their financial circumstances. The wealth and prosperity Gospel may work for the world’s 1% but it does not ‘preach’ in our community.

These friends of mine are from the world of mental health. They are unable to function in the world of commerce. These folks who are empirically unable to deal with the world of finance are given a monthly cheque that would require brilliant home economist skills to manage. It is no surprise that there is generally more month than money. Their needs are basic and their needs are many. If financial ‘blessing’ is a measure of God’s care they have reason to feel ignored.

This is why we talk about prayer so often. How we pray is a reflection of how we see or experience God. If my experience of God is as a cosmic ATM then my prayer life reflects that. My bank account may be rich but my prayer life and relationship with God will be poor indeed. If though I see God as a very present help, if I see him indispensable to my daily living then my prayer life becomes very rich. There is no virtue in involuntary poverty but it has certain advantages.

I love to hear the plain and plaintive prayers of my friends. I have had visitors such as the Lieutenant Governor of the province and visiting clergy who have commented on the touching prayers of my simple friends.

Last Sunday we had a wonderfully odd assortment of us gathered for prayer and worship in a friend’s apartment. One of the newest members suffers from agoraphobia, she started venturing out to our host’s home for tea just this year and now her circle has grown to include our Street Hope gang as we gather in her trusted friend’s home. The prayers for ‘help’ last Sunday moved me but more importantly I believe they move God as he witnesses the desperate trust his gathered children put in him. “Dear God, I’m about to lose it with my worker. Please give me patience. You know I struggle. Amen”

Elsewhere people may join in the prayer of Janis Joplin “Lordy won’t you give me a Mercedes Benz ….” But my friends choose to: ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking. We often talk about ‘praying in Jesus name’ and remind ourselves that this means that we ought to pray for those things and only those things which line up with the person, Jesus, that we have come to know. We ask ourselves “does my prayer reflect love toward God?” and “Does it reflect love for my neighbour, as myself?”

When it comes to richness of prayer life I have experienced part of what Jesus meant when he said “Blessed are the poor”

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