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What if we who pray must also embody answer?

God did not answer the prayers of 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Who are we to ask that he help us survive another day?

Still, we pray. We ask God to shrink tumors and debts, to hedge our bets in custody battles and job searches. The more evolved among us press for intangibles like courage, forbearance or discernment, as if God were a spiritual director or depth psychologist with a talent for helping us become all we can be.

The audacious among us take on whole peoples and causes, praying for Bosnia, the ordination of women, the indigenous of Chiapas, a cure for AIDS. Amazingly, after litanies that can sound like newscasts, the faithful rouse themselves to say "thank you." The reason, as a rabbi here in Tucson reminds his congregation each Friday night, is because "life is a gift, not a payment."

So much beauty, so much evil: Our prayers are a poetry authored by a young and needy species. Is it any wonder that God is so moody, at times withdrawn, at times hurtling headlong into history? Read through the Christian and Hebrew scriptures for a fresh reminder of the Creator's emotional life and you will not feel so alone in your crazier moments.

Despite politically correct efforts at emphasizing the kinder, gentler aspects of God, the imagery suggests something much richer. Like a hidden camera, the scriptures capture uncensored versions of God's murderous as well as erotic moments. God is as much a political strategist as a nursing mother and a daydreamer given to reveries of a healed earth.

Maybe we are commanded to pray because our hopes and fears keep the Creator in touch with his or her humanity.

If what Christians say about Jesus is true, then this would not be out of character. Jesus' way of being divine was to throw himself into the dramas of his day, to feel everything.

I like to think that our pleas, however profound, however piddling, compose a kind of gravity that tugs at the spirit of God - as well as the saints and ancestors - so that s/he continues to walk among us, even to the point of suffering with the poorest of the poor, as Latin America's theologians have taught.

It has been suggested that God can do nothing on this earth except through us, by our hands, our wills. It makes sense. What if, like Christ, we must not only say the prayer but also embody the answer? Twentieth century theology gave us the nerve to demand of God, "Where were you when the millions died?" What we hear in response is at once agonizing and hopeful: "Where were you?"

We are not powerless, we are not alone. And we have our work cut out for us.
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Title Annotation:prayers range from the specific to the general, from the humble to the audacious, yet it is possible that the answer to prayer lies within us
Author:Martinez, Demetria
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 17, 1995
Words:465
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