October 29, 2014 by Kambili M.A. Chimalu
Every Nigerian understands that our society is a deeply religious one, where all our decisions and actions (except in cases of embezzlement, corruption, but I digress) are influenced by our religious inclination or moral compass. This is a society where the answer to ALL issues can be found almost exclusively in prayer. A common refrain one hears whenever an issue is brought up is “pray about it.”
My husband punched me today – Pray about it.
I feel this sharp pain in my back whenever I lie down – Pray about it.
My son/daughter is not adapting to his/her new school – Pray about it.
40million is missing from our treasury – Pray about it.
This often resorted-to and carelessly-thrown-around advice of “Pray about it” is one of the things I despise most because in resorting to this intangible thing, people excuse themselves from thinking critically or offering any sought of meaningful help to the person seeking help. After all, why should I think critically about what might be causing my son/daughter to resent going to school and figure out how to fix it when I can abandon any sense of obligation by praying about it.
This attitude annoys me because it is a very dangerous advice to give to anyone who requires immediate and urgent help. Suppose, for instance, that a helpless woman runs to me for advice because her husband shuts her up for ranting by punching the living daylights out of her. Should I just give her the palatable advice of “pray about it” and then send her on her merry way? If I dish out this kind of advice, I ignorantly assume that the woman has not been praying about it all along before finally breaking down and asking for help. That would be an unconscionable thing to do. At this stage, what this woman needs is immediate help, which I can provide by pointing her to resources that can aid battered women or recommending a kick-ass lawyer that will ensure her husband gets his just rewards for abusing her.
When people resort to just prayers, they do themselves, and society at large, a great disservice. For instance, people die of treatable diseases in Nigeria because they would rather go to the mountain to pray about it instead of utilizing the wonders of modern medicine by going to the doctor. People instead of demanding accountability from our leaders by protesting and demonstrating would rather just pray about it and wait for God to touch our leaders’ hearts.
I am not saying that prayer is useless or unimportant in our everyday lives. I am only saying that we cannot use prayer as a clutch to suspend common sense and remain inactive even in the face of danger. People often question my “Christianity” whenever I advocate critical reasoning instead of blind/misguided belief, but even the Bible itself states that “Faith without work is DEAD.” When the good Samaritan saw the man that had been robbed and beaten by the way side, he did not just pray about it and then carry on like nothing happened; he took action by giving calculated tangible help to the man.
We cannot abdicate our responsibility to society and fellow man by just praying and hoping things will change on their own. God is not going to come down from heaven himself and change things. He is going to use vessels: you, me, doctors, homeless shelters, domestic violence hotlines, lawyers, etc. So, the next time someone comes to us for help, we must take the time to reflect on what kind of assistance we can offer, in addition to praying about it, that will ensure the survival of the person asking for help. Even as we continue to pray, may we not use that as an excuse for failing to help our fellow humans.