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Prayer Is Meaningless Without Action

In Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines


I have known people in my life who are very religious, counting on and crediting God for every positive thing in their lives. I’ve also known those who have no god at all – relying entirely on practical indecision to produce the same unpredictable outcome to a situation. While polar opposites in belief, these people are actually different sides of the same coin.

Anyone who depends on prayer or supernatural intervention to solve every problem is doomed to a lifetime of disappointment. The same can be said about someone who continues to make bad choices on their own, letting an indecisive nature create self-doubt and shadow individual common sense.

While it appears nowhere in the Bible, there is an old saying. God helps those who help themselves. The saying is attributed to Benjamin Franklin but probably originated much earlier in Ancient Greece.

Even though some Christians have criticized the expression as being contrary to the Bible’s message of God’s grace, but I disagree. Indeed, for the faithful, I think it may be the quintessential stepping stone to that enlightenment.

Some argue that this statement nullifies charity and faith. Instead, it implies a common sense approach to helping others and ourselves. After all, before we can help anyone else, we must stand on solid ground. Every structure needs a foundation.

The phrase also illustrates that each of us must take action to be successful in our endeavors or improve our situation. We can’t depend on others – God or otherwise – to solve our problems.

Of course there are times when we must make decisions for which we need guidance.  In those instances, a prayer, a talk with a friend or family member, or just quiet meditation can help. But, in the end, we must still act on our own accord to bring about the desired outcome. Dependence solely on prayer may do far more harm than good.

There is an anecdotal story about a very religious man who was seriously ill. Friends and neighbors begged him to seek medial help, but he just insisted he would pray and God would save him. After a few weeks the man finally died, never having seen a doctor. He is said to have had a simple case of pneumonia that could have been easily treated with antibiotics.

One interpretation of this story is that the man didn’t recognize God was, indeed, sending him help – in the form of friends and neighbors who were trying to get him to a doctor. So how do we know when and how to act? Good question, to which we all have to look inside ourselves for the answer.

Regardless of the denomination, to the devout, understanding what their god wants of them is rarely clear but all important. Even when the opportunities are placed in front of us, sometimes our own interpretations can get in the way of taking the action necessary to solve the problem for ourselves.

Even more confusing, however, is the realization that there are times when inaction is the best action to take. And, for some people, one of the hardest things to do is nothing. I’m one of those people.

As my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease exhibited more symptoms and complications, sometimes there was nothing to do but wait and watch. Nothing could have been more frustrating. Still, we all made the decision to wait and see what happened. But even in our day-to-day lives, sometimes we have to decide what to do, take whatever actions we can and then wait.

Whatever we are faced with, we each have decisions to make every day that determine the outcome of our lives. Should you have turned left instead of right, zigged instead of zagged.

There is no way to know for sure what to do. Whether we are guided by prayer, an inner voice or a Magic 8 Ball, how we act on those decisions is what really counts.


Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist based in Jamestown. More at http://www.deerinheadlines.com.

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