By Damian D'souza May. 22, 2018
The Archbishop of Delhi has sent an open letter to churches in the capital, urging them to pray India’s “turbulent political atmosphere” away. Such a typical response: We Catholics are conditioned to pray through everything. We have a prayer for every occasion, even though not every occasion merits a prayer.
When you grow up Catholic, phrases like “Aye what men?”, “Make one peg”, “Where’s the sorpotel?” and “Let us pray”, are the daily soundtrack to your life. Prayer is pretty much drilled into you at home and on the one day you get off, you’ve to wake up early and go to Sunday school to learn prayers. You see my people really believe that learning – say, math – will not help you fare well on your final exam, as the “Prayer For Success During Examinations” you were forced to memorise.
On Tuesday morning, I received a sharp reminder – yet again – of just how much prayer is a part of the Christian life. The Archbishop of Delhi, Anil Couto, shot off an open letter to churches in the capital, referring to a “turbulent political atmosphere” that is threatening the secular fabric of India. In the run up to 2019, he urged all priests to “pray for the country”.
Are you a minority in a country that is slowly enshrining the ideals of veg burgers and Savarkar?
We hear you, His Grace. All good points. But is the fail-safe option of prayer our only option?
We Catholics are conditioned to pray through everything. Hasn’t rained on time? A prayer for rain from skirt-and-blouse-wearing aunties should seed clouds. Getting a divorce because your husband cheated? Hit up the Catholic marriage tribunal for counselling on how to pray the philandering away. Are you a minority in a country that is slowly enshrining the ideals of veg burgers and Savarkar? How about prayer and a day of fasting for “the spiritual renewal of the nation” taking us back to more secular times when ours was the least oppressed minority.
Using prayer to counter the saffron leher is about as helpful as using a sock for safe sex: There’s plenty of holes in your defence. And yet, for some reason, we’ve decided that the best course of action is to clasp our hands together and get on our knees.
Like every religion, Christianity too has been tediously built using the myths and legends of the powers of prayer. We’ve grown up with stories from the Bible like that of Daniel, a devout God-fearing Christian who was ordered to be killed but was rendered safe thanks to prayers. We’ve heard of prayer healing people from illness and even bringing people back from the dead. But did you hear the story about the skydiver whose parachute malfunctioned and was saved thanks to prayer? Well, no one has, which is what makes me skeptical of the power of prayer.
If prayers actually did work we’d all be skinny, successful, and sober. By the way, AA is big on prayer and introspection, but I doubt God is actually granting you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. It’s the support structure, fellowship, and meds that work wonders but instead of placing our faith in hard work and elbow grease we’ve become adept at using prayer to do our dirty work. So prayers are summoned like alert soldiers for fighting everything – from communists, the devil, and homosexuality.
In India, we’ve got specific prayers for specific problems plaguing our country. I’ve heard prayers for deliverance from corruption, those against bribery, and even one for good governance. The zaniest prayer I’ve come across, however, has to be a prayer for conversion from contraception, which is meant to help Catholic couples conceive through condomless copulation: Because sex is for procreation, not recreation, and condoms are an attempt by Big Pharma to control the minority population.
This attitude of passing on our problems of God and hoping he takes care of the rest is inherently Christian, while every other faith has their own version of “it’s in God’s hands now” we take it to a whole new extreme, where our prayer is meant to rescue us from impending doom. We’d rather sit home and pray, than become politically active and figure out a solution to our the myriad problems that plague the modern minority. When was the last time you saw or heard a bunch of Christians protesting any kind of injustice? We probably left the political stance-taking to God.
My mom thinks my aversion to prayer is a case of sour grapes, because God hasn’t granted my wishes. Well for starters, it’s God, not the blue genie from Aladdin, and secondly, what people fail to understand is that prayer is supposed to be an ancillary to hard work – not the work itself.
Hoping that prayer is enough is like listening to workout music and hoping you lose weight without actually working out. Believe me, I’ve tried; I’ve even sent out a prayer to AbRaham, the God of Six Pack Abs. But it’s high time we learnt that while there exists a prayer for every occasion, not every occasion merits a prayer.
Damian loves playing videogames. If all the bounties he collected slaying zombies were tangible, he wouldn't need to write such bios. Seriously though, Damian used to be a cook who wrote, now he's just a writer who cooks.