Sunday, October 21, 2018

Prayer that is Action

Anthony Bloom (1914-2003) was an atheist,  studying medicine he had a dramatic conversion experience reading the bible. He later became the archbishop of the British Russian Orthodox Church. So begins the column: In the Believers Eyes of the Catholic Times.

When he was an atheist, the patients that came to him were treated as a means and tools to bring him success and wealth. But after his conversion he changed his attitude, treating each patient as an unique individual.

Bloom had an unforgettable experience when working one summer among the Alaskan Eskimos. Eskimo Christians do not distinguish between prayer and work because they have a deep understanding of the totality of life. At that time, Bloom participated in a volunteer program to build a high school. One day he was digging a trench for sewage. It was a tough job.  An Eskimo approached and watched as he worked and  said: "You dug a trench and glorify God." The Eskimo was only encouraging him but Bloom had never forgotten his words. No one was interested in him but the Eskimo showed interest. Thanks to his friend, Bloom gained strength, for every shovel of the earth became a prayer to God.

Archbishop  Bloom says: "prayer has meaning only when it accompanies life. If life does not follow, and prayer and life are not in agreement, prayer becomes a kind of gracious poem offered to God, occasionally. Our life needs to become our prayer. This is action-prayer.  

He mentions a Korean poet who in one of his writings speaks about a conversation with a friend who had to endure kidney dialysis for 20 years. His friend went to the hospital twice a week and sat on the dialysis bed for three or four hours. He showed the poet both arms that were filled with needle marks. The poet offered some words of concern on how difficult it must be and the friend smiled and answered:  "This is the time in which I offer Mass. He was able to sublimate his time on the dialysis bed. Is not this  action-prayer? 

 Is there harmony of work and prayer in the everyday life of believers?  One of the chronic problems of Korean churches is that faith and life are separated. Faith life and spirituality are overly individualized and a chameleon-like way of living is prevalent, Many don't live the way they pray, life and prayer are separated.

In order for prayer to be manifested in life and actions, culture must be evangelized. How to eat food, how to earn money, how to use it, how to labor and rest, and so on. Prayer gives direction to the culture of love, justice, peace, and truth. Eventually, the prayer of action will bring about the glorification of God through the 'evangelization of culture'. "Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God" (Cor. 10:31).