Change the Tone

Jim CastroLang is the pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Colville



Alberta Newspaper Group


Cultural attitudes and political entrenchment are representations of a serious divide in our country. It is not just a clash of principles and values; it is the reality that we can’t even tolerate listening to each other. When we try to open our hearts to listen, we expose ourselves to putdowns, mocking, belittlement, etc. The same happens when we share what we know and what is important to us. “Let us pray.” This is the reality of our living environment– our prayers are related to what we are experiencing and how we are feeling perhaps we should examine our prayers. Are we praying with a sense of triumph, achievement, and success? Or we praying while seeing ourselves as a victim? Are we experiencing deep hurt or betrayal? Are we filled with worry, fear, or anger? Maybe we doubt and wonder. Where is God in our moment of need? Are you praying that God will fix the conspiracy theories of your disagreeable brotherin- law? In these dividing times, when so much is intensely flowing through our hearts, we need prayer. It helps us find our center and changes our sights to see things from the angle of God’s infinite love. When we pray aloud in groups, we can encourage each other. But, have you ever been offended by another person’s prayer? Maybe you’ve been the offender, when your prayers turn into speeches or a grocery list of what and who needs to be fixed. This becomes our agenda, not God’s. In the Gospels, Jesus told this story, “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘ I thank you, God, that I am not like other people— cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9- 14). When I am on the receiving end of this type of spoken prayer I’m being held hostage, and can’t push back against someone else’s prayer. However, spiritual people can change the tone of prayer. We can resist praying that God will win it for our side. We can burn new pathways of connection that open the possibilities of healing and reconciliation. Most of Jesus’ disciples did not understand his way until after the Cross. I’m sure they prayed that Jesus would gain influence and power and then use that power in the culture and politics of the day, although Jesus chose a different way. In our group prayers we can shift the energy from division to renewal of relationships across our different agendas and faith perspectives. It is time to choose a different way. It’s time to utilize our prayer to help us to heal the wounds and reconcile across the divide.