Generally, I don’t. Pray, that is.
For years, week after week, I offered prayers in sweat lodges—prayers of gratitude and prayers for the healing of others. Even then, it was more of an energy offering than a petition; an intention sent out into the world, rather than an address to a creator or goddess as a being. But whenever I articulate my gratitude—for home, family, friends, relative safety, my body’s resilience—I’m flooded with the guilt of the privileged.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with an older gentleman on the Folkstone ferry dock. When I outlined my plans to travel around the world, he said, “Oh, you young folks are so lucky.” I became defensive, told him I’d worked hard to earn the funds. “No, no,” he said. “I didn’t mean that you hadn’t earned it. Only that in my day, there were no such opportunities. We didn’t have that kind of freedom.”
That exchange over forty years ago was one of the first shifts in my privileged perspective.
Now, when I hear someone say that we choose our path, that existence provides everything we need, or love heals all wounds, some part of me sits up like a prairie dog. Down in my burrow, I said those kinds of things, believed them, even. But I’m out in the light of savage truths now, unable to pop back into my comfy little warren.
In the wake of myriad confirmations that what Indigenous people have been saying for decades is true, I am howling a kind of prayer. As incantation, as resolution, as lullaby.
Did prayer save or even soothe those children? The way prayer comforted or rescued the Jews, Poles, homosexuals eighty years ago?
So, let our prayers listen instead of tell. Let our prayers have hands that sign petitions and raise placards. Let our prayers have feet that march, legs that stand. Let our prayers have voices that shake the ground. Let our prayers take perpetrators and collaborators by the collars and drag them up the courtroom steps.
And let our prayers dig the wells and lay the pipes.
Name each body and bring them home.