Praying on the Corner
Someone asked me about the people who “pray on the street corner”. You know what they are talking about. In large cities all over, people set up a mini pulpit of sorts. Their congregation is anyone who passes by. The other night I heard someone describe the experience of walking past such a corner. “They stand there screaming “Repent!” I end up feeling guilty and I am not ever really sure why!”
Some would call this a type of prayer, this evangelical display. Others simply call it annoying and a few might even go as far as calling it “crazy”. The new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church feels we need more “crazy Christians” but I am not certain standing on a street corner and shouting out scripture and what happens to sinners is what he means.
I really don’t know if these street preachers accomplish much but they definitely are not afraid to let others know what they believe and I commend them for that. I also don’t know if what they are doing really falls under the category of prayer. Most of these faith peddlers consider themselves to be Christian so let’s use their religion to describe their actions.
Many Christians use the following acrostic when praying: A.C.T.S. Each letter represents on of the four elements of prayer. “A” is for adoration; “C” stands for confession. Many prayers begin with a description of the deity being addressed, an adoration that recognizes the deity’s place and role in our lives. The confession part we all understand albeit many of us seldom confess what or all we should. “T” represents thanksgiving while “S” is for supplication. These latter two are self-explanatory with thanks often given less than confessions. Most humans are very good at prayers of supplication, prayers that ask for something.
There are those theologians who believe the A.C.T.S. acrostic also illustrates the priority one should give each facet of prayer. This is often a characteristic of a denominational belief. I find it interesting although I am not certain I agree with those theologians. Certainly there are more prayers of supplication than elements of adoration and thanksgiving. Usually one’s prayer life is more along the lines of S.C.A.T. or S.A.C. Regretfully, the old adage “No news is good news” is how many thank their deity – No prayer means all is good. I really think that is missing the point of prayer.
Many have pointed out that the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer supposedly given by the man known as Jesus of Nazareth who Christians believe to be the son of God, contains no thanksgiving. The “hallowed by thy name” is an adoration. “Forgive us our sins” is certainly a confession and there are supplications – “Give us this day our daily bread; Thy will be done on earth.” Perhaps the second part of the confession is a type of thanksgiving, “as we forgive those” but I really doubt it. Perhaps the acrostic is a bit incomplete and thanksgiving is something to live, illustrated instead of prayed. Truthfully, the fact that we have a deity to be pray to should be reason enough for giving thanks.
But what about those street corner praying faith peddlers? We all are corner prayers. We come to a crossroads and what do we do? We pray. Life requires us to make choices and as we stand between two or more things trying to decide, we pray. Hopefully we aren’t judging others as they pass, screaming “Repent!” but we do stand on the corner of life and buy our actions, peddle our faith.
Life is not for the weak or spineless. It takes courage and deliberate action to live a faith-filled life. Being connected is something uncomfortable; it makes our lives busy and, at times, non-complacent. We pray for many reasons but in most of them, it is because we are standing at the corner of life.
If you find yourself in a large city, on a corner needing to cross the street, you have to not only look at any traffic signals but also listen for traffic and look to see if any vehicles are coming. Prayer is not a monologue. We need to listen and act. We have to engage and then follow through, crossing the street and continuing our path in life. No matter who we are, praying on the corner as we stand on the crossroads of everyday life is a great way to avoid traffic and carry on down the road we call living.