How Easy it is to Pray: Actions Should be Encouraged

For my Writing for Social Change course this semester, we were asked to write a “My Turn” essay on a topic of our choice.  I wanted to address prayer and actions that people take.

Revision:

How Easy it is to Pray: Actions Should be Encouraged

As we were driving home from high school one day, a friend told me she had prayed to God to tell her where to go to college.  And she said He’d answered.

She paid her deposit for one university and wasn’t accepted into the other colleges after that.  Was it a sign?  She believed it was.

How easy.  How easy it is to believe in God.  To ask for help and have Him aid the decision process.

Yet, as I write this, I have trouble believing.  I ask God to answer my requests.  Well, what about helping others who are worse off?  Can you start there, God?  Can you please start there?  The world needs you.  Natural disasters, sexual violence, nuclear weapons, social inequality, all the violence, all the hate, all the awful …  Why are you slacking?  Why aren’t you there?  Why aren’t you doing something?  Are you there?  Are you listening?  Are you there, God, it’s me, Marlena.

These prayers haven’t incited much change, from what I can see.  So I’m taking another course of action.

We should take on the responsibility and fulfill the challenge of answering our own prayers.

Anyone can mumble a prayer, whisper forgiveness or thanks, or ask for help for his or someone else’s suffering.  I think what really constitutes if you are a “good Jew,” “good Christian,” “good Muslim,” and so on, is if you actually go out and act. Actions are becoming increasingly rare and important.  It takes more courage and effort to get involved in causes and work to make change.  This shows that actions are the most important occurrences in life.

Many faiths consider social justice a religious duty.  The Jewish faith has a tenet of Tikkun O’lam, healing the world.  Muslims have Zakat, alms-giving, where they help the poor or needy.  And Christians have tithing.  These separate religions have similar objectives — heal the world, fix the inequalities, because it is a religious duty, according to these faiths.

Every summer at my Jewish camp, Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, the entire camp goes into the local community and paints the hallways of homeless shelters, sings and talks to the elderly at nursing homes, or cleans up lawns for mentally disabled homeowners.  Participating in these community building activities broadened my perspective on the world at an early age and instilled in me the importance of helping others in the community.  Social justice is one of the major pillars of the Habonim Dror youth movement.  Being introduced to such a “bigger than me” outlook has continued to motivate me to act.

This is one of the many available examples of camps, religious groups, humanitarian organizations, nongovernmental organizations, human rights organizations and so on worldwide performing community service and social justice activities.  But these actions often go unnoticed and without enough support.  Actions should be given more value and funding.

It is action that has the most lasting impact.  Gandhi’s hunger strikes, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “March on Washington,” Jews rallying together and fighting against ghettoes and genocide, one lone protestor standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square, people traveling to sites of natural disasters and helping those affected, soldiers helping the opposition soldiers and civilians, journalists’ stories, people promoting non-violence and social justice — this is what we remember.

The freedom of speech was being fought for during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.  The Chinese government censored the media, kept information about the protests from the Chinese people, and ordered the removal of the protestors by military force.  International news media remained in China and asked the difficult questions and continued to report despite bans and orders by the Chinese government.  It is these students, citizens, and journalists who all protested injustice that we as a collective society remember.  Even when they were told to step down and were fired at, they remained, protested, wrote, broadcast — they acted.

Today, America celebrates Martin Luther King day and the striking down of racist laws.  In the 1960s, the men and women who protested, wrote about, and defied racial discrimination and injustice were people of action.  They didn’t let the de facto and de jure laws scare them into compliance.  These people knew more had to be done to change their world.  Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, and in turn she spurred thousands of others to stand up in the face of racial injustice.  Martin Luther King Jr. used his words to describe a world he envisioned, a world he thought could be true, in his “I Have a Dream” speech.  His words gave hope and courage to people who were moved to action.

Actions can be small or large, but they all contain a spark that can cause the ripple-effect of countless others.  It is the people who go out and decide to act upon their ideals and beliefs, who enact their prayers and thoughts and ideals into action that we should hold in high esteem.  Action should be regarded as the highest achievement a person can attain.

***

How Easy it is to Pray: Actions Should be Encouraged

Marlena Chertock

As we were driving home from high school one day, a friend told me she had prayed to God to tell her where to go to college. And she said He’d answered.

She paid her deposit for one university and wasn’t accepted into the other colleges after that. Was it a sign? She believed it was.

How easy. How easy it is to believe in God. To ask for help and have Him aid the decision process.

Yet, as I write this, I have trouble believing. I ask God to answer my requests. Well, what about helping others who are worse off? Can you start there, God? Can you please start there? The world needs you. Natural disasters, sexual violence, nuclear weapons, social inequality, all the violence, all the hate, all the awful … Why are you slacking? Why aren’t you there? Why aren’t you doing something? Are you there? Are you listening? Are you there, God, it’s me, Marlena.

These prayers haven’t incited much change, from what I can see. So I’m taking another course of action.

We should take on the responsibility and fulfill the challenge of answering our own prayers.

Anyone can mumble a prayer, whisper forgiveness or thanks, or ask for help for his or someone else’s suffering. I think what really constitutes if you are a “good Jew,” “good Christian,” “good Muslim,” and so on, is if you actually go out and act. Actions are becoming increasingly rare and important. It takes more courage and effort to get involved in causes and work to make change. This shows that actions are the most important occurrences in life.

Many faiths consider social justice a religious duty. The Jewish faith has a tenet of Tikkun O’lam, healing the world. Muslims have Zakat, alms-giving, where they help the poor or needy. And Christians have tithing. These separate religions have similar objectives — heal the world, fix the inequalities, because it is a religious duty, according to these faiths.

Every summer at my Jewish camp, Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, the entire camp goes into the local community and paints the hallways of homeless shelters, sings and talks to the elderly at nursing homes, or cleans up lawns for mentally disabled homeowners. Participating in these community building activities broadened my perspective on the world at an early age and instilled in me the importance of helping others in the community. Social justice is one of the major pillars of the Habonim Dror youth movement. Being introduced to such a “bigger than me” outlook has continued to motivate me to act.

This is one of the many available examples of camps, religious groups, humanitarian organizations, nongovernmental organizations, human rights organizations and so on worldwide performing community service and social justice activities. But these actions often go unnoticed and without enough support. Actions should be given more value and funding.

It is action that has the most lasting impact. Gandhi’s hunger strikes, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “March on Washington,” Jews rallying together and fighting against ghettoes and genocide, one lone protestor standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square, people traveling to sites of natural disasters and helping those affected, soldiers helping the opposition soldiers and civilians, journalists’ stories, people promoting non-violence and social justice — this is what we remember.

The freedom of speech was being fought for during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The Chinese government censored the media, kept information about the protests from the Chinese people, and ordered the removal of the protestors by military force. International news media remained in China and asked the difficult questions and continued to report despite bans and orders by the Chinese government. It is these students, citizens, and journalists who all protested injustice that we as a collective society remember. Even when they were told to step down and were fired at, they remained, protested, wrote, broadcast — they acted.

Today, America celebrates Martin Luther King day and the striking down of racist laws. In the 1960s, the men and women who protested, wrote about, and defied racial discrimination and injustice were people of action. They didn’t let the de facto and de jure laws scare them into compliance. These people knew more had to be done to change their world. Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, and in turn she spurred thousands of others to stand up in the face of racial injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. used his words to describe a world he envisioned, a world he thought could be true, in his “I Have a Dream” speech. His words gave hope and courage to people who were moved to action.

Perhaps the common thread of social justice in major world religions is a hint. Religions provide some of the cohesive framework for people to go out and engage in social justice projects. But social justice isn’t meant to be limited to religious people or those who identify with a certain faith. It’s intended to be a collective endeavor of people — a social embarking of betterment.

We should take our cue from religious tenets of social justice. But it is up to all of us to organize larger and more diversified social justice projects.

These projects and actions can be small or large, but they all contain a spark that can cause the ripple-effect of countless others. It is the people who go out and decide to act upon their ideals and beliefs, who enact their prayers and thoughts and ideals into action that we should hold in high esteem. Action should be regarded as the highest achievement a person can attain.

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