How should we pray?
This is another “TL;DR” post. The answer requires pulling together many threads. The question is not sterile and precise; it’s organic. So is the answer. If you take the example of the Model Prayer (“the Our Father”) in Matthew 6, you’ll find yourself in a context totally absent from our Western culture. Western Christians memorize the thing in the crazy belief that rote repetition covers it. Rather, Jesus intended to set a pattern, not for begging God like some mere human master, but to prepare our minds with the proper protocols and customary considerations. What does God think you should pray for? Keep in mind that Jesus is offering a correction to bad Jewish teaching that had accumulated over several centuries, serving to pull the Hebrew folks away from their Hebrew cultural roots.
So we ask again: What should you and I pray for in our here-and-now context? What might serve to correct our own cultural drift these two millennia since?
This is inherent in Sister Christine’s question on a previous post. Take a moment to consider something men: The Bible teaches us as shepherds that we dare not blunder through life without asking for the wisdom of those in our flock. And it takes a truly stupid shepherd to imagine that your counsel of advisors cannot include women. Frequently, our Sister Christine proves the wisdom of my inviting her to take the role of Mama Elder in our parish, because she asks such marvelous questions. I’ll let you in on a little secret: A part of why women were supposed to be silent in early New Testament worship (which echoed both synagogue and Temple services) is not entirely symbolic and ceremonial. It was also because men typically throw softballs that you can handle easily. But while it’s typical for women to ask questions that are more specific to your family situation (a private matter), some women who ask those questions after the service will hit you with something that demands a lot more time in prayer and Scripture reading to get the right answer. You need time to come up with a valid response next week when the church meets again.
It so happens that this time it wasn’t a matter of long consideration, but of long answering.
To be more specific, her question deals with getting our heads in the right place so that we’ll know what to pray for, what we should hope to see, and what we should expect from the hand of God. We want to know all of that in regards to what we can expect from Trump as President. It’s plain to see that God is using him to really stir things up, and that always means tribulation. When change is utterly necessary, it’s all the more painful and disruptive. Somewhere between reasonable speculation about Trump and his intentions on the one hand, and what God is likely to permit or deny on the other hand, we need to seek God’s face.
My skewering of political activism is not meant to shut you up in your daily conversations with folks. We most certainly should promote God’s viewpoint on things; it’s that we don’t run around with the false expectation that we can change the outcomes. God alone controls the outcomes. What is coming is what is coming; even that was inherent in the Model Prayer. Rather, we ask for wisdom and guidance in positioning ourselves to exploit what’s coming for His glory. And we share our insights on that question so maybe a few others can be in a good place. With that in mind, we guard our answers to match where the questioner is standing. It’s not as if my answer is secret from those who don’t live a heart-led life of faith, but I can rightly demand more for those who do. Folks who lack our brand of mystical insight will probably choke on some of this; I can’t help that.
The answer is in the Bible, of course, but I would suggest the particular application for us starts with recognizing that God’s moral character points people back to Eden. That is, His revelation and His redemptive character seeks to restore what we lost. In modern vernacular, it’s elevating folks out of their pitiful fleshly self. It’s both, building a fire under their butts, and opening the upward path as the only way out of the fire. We, as ministers of His glory, seek often to appeal to the better nature of those around us, as part of helping them out of a bad fix. Contrary to the worldly system that dehumanizes, we seek to ennoble. But the starting point is casting aside all the worst, the death and decay that seems so comfortable and familiar to them. In other words, we aim to provoke them to shed their protective shell and face the risks inherent in getting a much better deal in life.
The other thing is helping them to redefine what “better” means. It’s nothing like answering their petty whims and wishes. It’s discovering the true joy of walking in the Law of God — the subject of our study in Psalm 119. It’s restoring that lost communion with the rest of Creation that is thrilling and fulfilling beyond words.
Again: How do we apply that to our situation with Trump as POTUS?
Part of his appeal to the voters is offering to ennoble the common man. That’s why he won. It’s inherent in his rhetoric. Whether he actually delivers remains to be seen. He countered the message of the SJWs, which message is meant to keep folks wrapped in diapers and sucking the bottle. In your own mind, expand and extend that image and you’ll understand why the SJWs are a greater evil than Trump. Even if he fails to deliver, provoking that hope is enough to create an atmosphere where the elitist oppression will come apart. If all Trump did was to destroy the mainstream tyranny, we are blessed without any further accomplishments. This alone would allow a restructuring of the economy.
We need to understand something about a biblical approach to politics, something I wove into my message on that third blog: You cannot guide the outcomes of political events. The most you can do is set people free and let them take it from there. It’s the elite pretense of having the right answer to all human need that is evil. While letting the mass of humanity run free without guidance does naturally bring lots of idiocy, that’s not our problem. With the proper freedom, we also will be blessed with the chance to follow our hearts and glorify God. Yes, we know that the cycle of making a mess and begging for rescue will bring them all back under tyranny again, but that’s what God has decreed. That’s what is normal in our fallen world. Stop trying to fix it. Try to demonstrate a better way and allow your heart-led life, so consistent with reality itself, draw them with its mystical beauty, because the only way to change humanity is one at a time. If they don’t see the beauty of God’s Law in action, we can’t help them anyway.
That has nothing to do with how we each exercise a shepherd’s guidance within our God-given domain. We set individuals free so they know to join a covenant family. We set them free to discover who God made them to be so they’ll figure out for themselves which covenant family they belong to, when and for how long they belong. It’s not static, so get rid of that notion. We have to understand that “social stability” as another label for shalom is living and active like the Word of God (Hebrew 4:12). It’s a dynamic life that welcomes changes from the hand of God.
This is what stands behind the issue of understanding trade and prosperity. We should know that “made in America” is a manipulative slogan, not the Word of God. That slogan arises in a false global economy. That is sounds so good to so many people simply shows how messed up the the whole thing is. It takes a lot to untangle that mess. On the one hand, we have the biblical ideal of everyone following their own genuine heart-led calling to do what God made them to do. In His wisdom, that would result in a perfect economy. It always balances out and we would have shalom. It requires only a very light layer of planning and guidance from a shepherd elder who knows the Word of God. We ain’t gonna get that. We would in some measure as we obey God in our own small domains, but it’s not going to happen as American policy.
The globalist pretense is that good global trade requires their vision of good global government to wisely compel folks to do locally what makes us all a little richer and better behaved. That vision rests squarely on the cult of Oester. It’s based on the very evil Mama goddess forcing everyone to be a child and making them behave according to her “divine” wisdom. The imperialist version of this is domination to benefit one nation and simply calling it “for the good of all mankind,” since “our way is the only reasonable way.” It’s the cult of Odin writ large, the brutal, capricious and evil Daddy deciding what we need and we damned well better like it. Globalism and imperialism are two different flavors of the same evil.
There is a fairly sensible thread of economic theory that gets little hearing in political chatter. It seeks to understand that each region of the world fosters it’s own unique set of resources, including the resident population who are in a position to harvest those resources for a good economic benefit. Let folks do what they do best where they live and they’ll come up with something other folks want, and they can all trade. Within this, we are presuming a respect for Creation that you won’t see often in this world. Thus, we have a very natural imbalance because nobody gets it right. A lot of bluster from the globalist nannies will twist and pervert this into a heathen religion, the Green Goddess of Earth worship, another hurdle to doing things right. But the idea that we all have some kind of ownership claim on each other worldwide is a bad heathen doctrine, and it’s bad economics. It’s related to the hostile imperialist competition of the old mercantilist zero-sum economic view.
So there are some things better made in America, and some things better made somewhere else. It is entirely evil for someone in one country to manufacture their product in another country, exploiting their relative poverty to enslave the labor, and then sell it back cheaply to their home country. It’s evil because it creates a barrier between labor and management; it dehumanizes owner, worker, and buyer as well. God’s Word says your workers are you family. If not literally, then in a covenant relationship. If you don’t live in that poorer country, then you have no business employing their people, because you cannot possibly obey God’s Law. Nor can you use the excuse of contracting it out to local brutal management. You are morally responsible for what you sell.
For us little people trying to make a buck here there, a lot of that is out of our hands. Sometimes blessing others means you hold your nose and buy from Walmart — AKA, Chinamart. Don’t listen to the boycott activists; they lie and blaspheme our Father. Walk in your own heart-led conscience; take time to discover your own convictions without their heathen influence. I have learned to hate communist unions and rapacious management together.
I pray, more than anything else, that Trump might see some advantage in decentralizing the system to extent possible. There are some goods that simply cannot be produced without massive infrastructure. Those are things we simply have to leave in God’s hands. Don’t agitate for “made in America” because that might mean a hefty price increase. Yet we do need to keep some jobs at home, so we cannot import everything simply because the price is lower. It’s well nigh impossible to manage such things centrally so that it also means a general rise in income for everyone, so forget the propaganda claims that talk about “all boats rising” when anyone one person profits. Wealth is for sharing, but only if you obey God’s Laws will it work out that way.
There simply is no way for humans to manage those things directly. We have had enough government fiat tinkering too much in complex systems. What we do know is that somewhere in this huge mess is a balance between too much of a good thing and not enough. I pray that God will move us to the proper balance between too much manufactured outside our country and too little. There are some things we do best, some for ourselves and some for others. There are some items for which it makes no sense to import them regardless of price difference because the economic result rests on a divine moral principle, not mere economic reasoning. The price is not the issue, but whether the economic system supports and delivers the optimal buying power of the people, a proper mix of domestic goods and imports. But we have pushed debt too far for petty materialistic reasons and now that debt has to be dissolved; somebody has to take a loss, and it has to be someone with something to lose.
Yes, it brings it back to the question of whether we really need those kinds of goods in our world, but you can’t decide the answer for someone else. You can decide it only for your own domain. God has called me to minister in a world that includes computers and all the bad that comes with that. By the same token, I seldom tell someone, “You need a computer.” That’s not for me to decide. It’s not possible to objectify a grand human ideal. That’s the real problem we face when we come before God to pray. We don’t pray that some political leader make everyone else follow our personal ideal.
We pray for less tyranny and oppression so that folks can choose their own poisons, because that means we have the freedom to pursue His glory.