I am something of a realist and a cynic. I assume that I basically have little or no power over the universe, and that there is almost nothing I can do to change that. You know the story of the guy walking along the beach and throwing back star fish. Someone points out that there are more star fish than he can possibly save, and he replies, “Perhaps, but I made a difference to that one,” throwing another star fish back into the ocean. I have to confess that my sympathies tend to be with the questioner.
Generally speaking, I enjoy my powerlessness, and I avoid worrying about the world’s problems or trying to congratulate myself on being “part of the solution” by engaging in largely meaningless gestures. (Like bumper stickers.) Of late, however, I am surprised to find myself actually worried about some “big issues.” Not interested in them. Not thinking about them or analyzing them. Worried. There are two in particular that worry me. First, is the situation in Iraq and the rather grisly choices that it presents policy makers. The second is the growth and health of the church. While there are obviously things that I can do in a micro level about both of these issues, I am realistic enough to realize that at the end of the day virtually anything that I do will be wholly ineffectual on a macro level.
I have found to my surprise, however, that prayer has had a huge impact on my spirit. I don’t want to slip into a kind of cheap pietism that allows us to pray and do nothing. Brigham Young was once reportedly heading south with a party of associates when their wagon became stuck in a patch of sand. One of his earnest companions asked, “Brother Brigham, should we pray?” Brigham responded, “We prayed this morning, let’s get out and push.” Brigham’s approach seems right and good to me. And yet, I find a burden of worry is lifted from me when I pray for the people of Iraq, for the church, for the leaders of nations, and for the prophets. I put my fears and hopes before God, and he returns to me my hopes