Scripture tells us that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine. Every time I read that passage, I wonder how much our imagination, or lack of it, defines our world. Not just how we perceive the world but how it actually functions.
What if many of the age old problems in the world remain age old problems because we accept them to always be true, to be part of reality. What if we could imagine a better world, one without those problems, we could actually bring it about.
One if the more perplexing aspects of the Bible is the concept that God answers our prayers and that he intervenes because we ask and sometimes doesn’t because we don’t. I cannot explain the theology of that. I can try to accept it and pray with faith an hope that it actually works that way. Some of the time. If it is true, and my prayers and yours sway God in some way, then why not seek his help with more? With everything. Even the small stuff. Or, even the really big stuff.
What if poverty exists because we can’t imagine a world without it so we don’t pray for that. Or war. Or disease. Or pollution. Or… You can fill in the next 50 “ors”.
In the movie Searching for Debra Winger, several actresses are interviews, including Whoopi Goldberg. she discusses being a child and watching Star Trek. The impact of Lt. Uhura affected Whoopi. She remembers telling her mom “There’s a black lady on television and she’s nobody’s maid.” That was an astounding item when Star Trek first aired on TV. Racism and sexism still drove what roles people played. Gene Roddenberry dared imagine a world, albeit a far distant future world, where a black woman could be an officer. Not the maid.
Would we have gotten to a black president without Star Trek showing us something different than the expected in the mid sixties? Probably, but it may still be coming. One man’s imagination changes how other expected and accepted things to be.
Granted other people played other roles, other imaginations added to the momentum of this movement. But someone, several someones maybe, imagining something different helped other imagine something different. And change followed.
Someone imagined a world without slavery and started acting on that. Others joined in. It was a nasty mess to get to an America without slavery, but it has happened. There is a long way to go. Slavery still exists in the world. Racism still causes problems in the U.S. but things are better and they will continue to get better as we imagine such a world and act on making it so.
But what does any of this have to do with prayer as I started out? This is about art. This is about activism. It’s not about prayer.
Or is it.
The book of Jeremiah includes a letter he wrote to a bunch of people in exile. He tells them that God wants them to pray for the peace and prosperity of the city where they live. As they do so, God will bring it about.
What if praying for the peace and prosperity of the city we live in, or state, or nation, or world, is the first step toward them becoming better places to be? What if imagining it could be different enough to want to pray for it is the first step to God motivating someone to take action about it?
Whenever I pray this, I feel that if I am asking God to bring peace and prosperity to the place I leave, that I need to ask him to make me an agent of that peace, that prosperity. I am told that faith without action is not really faith. So I try to find how to take some action about what I ask God to do.
I think we could have a drastically better world if we dare to pray for it, dare to take action to make it, have the guts to make paintings and songs and stories that show us what it would look like.
Take a minute. Imagine what such a world would be like. Then ask God how you can do something about making it happen.
I dare you.