Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmentalism as an act of Prayer

I think it would be helpful for us as Christians in the 21st century to take advice from our first and second century Desert Mothers and Fathers when they said to "pray always." The mothers and fathers weren't encouraging each other to sit in silence and stillness and pray all day, although they did do this on occasion. What they were encouraging was the act of prayer to intersect with their daily lives. Most Mothers and Fathers did tasks throughout the day that helped them live, weaving was one of these tasks. And as they weaved they would pray, as they ate they would pray, and as they would participate in the taking care of those in need, they would pray.

How would this life of prayer fit into your daily routine? Do you posses the discipline it takes to "pray always?" It sounds daunting, if not terrifying, however some daily tasks are not far off from acts of prayer.

This is where the environment comes in. Have you ever thought about environmentalism as an act of prayer? Let's think about a few aspects of a daily life, that as people who care about the environment might take part in.
  • The first thing that comes to mind is gardening. Tilling the earth, planting a seed, and then tending a garden. The earliest monastics did it and some still do today. This garden provides for those who are tending it as well as perhaps those that are not able to plant their own garden. How can this not be an act of prayer? If you have spent much time in a garden, you know the connection that one develops with the earth, the earth that God created for us. So in the garden, pray a prayer of thankfulness for the ability to provide for ourselves and for others, as well as the enjoyment of just being among God's creation in the Garden.
  • What about planting a tree? This is close to tending a garden but slightly different. Planting a tree is more of a long term commitment. You are saying to God that you love the creation God has given us and are will to participate in the upkeep of creation for the long hall.
  • One that you probably haven't given much thought to is the act of recycling. Much like the repetitive task that the early Mothers and Fathers had in weaving, we find ourselves constantly sorting, bagging, and moving recyclables. What do you think about when you are participating in the act of recycling? Most likely you are going over daily plans in your head, or thinking how dirty of a job it can be sometimes. What if instead you prayed? You prayed to God and told God that you are not going to let Creation go to waste, that you are going to do what you can, where you can, to preserve this great gift.
  • On of the biggest and most effective ways we can turn our environmentalism into an act of prayer is by simplifying our life. When we own and use only what we need, share with others in our community, cut down on our meetings, appointment, and shopping sprees, we have that much more time to pray. Again I'm not talking about sitting still and in silence prayer, I'm talking about the daily act of prayer, meeting God where we are. It is hard to meet God when the cellphone is attached to our head, and the television is blaring in the next room. By cutting down on what we consume we are also opening up opportunities to meet God.
These are obviously only few suggestions, I know there has to be many more out there. But think about them, reflect about them, and pray about them. Your relationship with God and the earth can change if you use environmentalism an act of prayer.

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