Palm Sunday: Praying Is Social

If you are to have a future, it will be a future together with others. A prayer of hope is a prayer that disarms you and extends you far beyond the limits of your own longings. Therefore, there can be no talk of prayer so long as praying is thought of as an activity which excludes our neighbor. “Anyone who says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother or sister is a liar,” 1 John 4:20.

Praying can never be anti-social or asocial. Whenever we pray and leave out our neighbors, our prayer is not real prayer. True prayer by its nature is socially significant.

And so, compassion removed all pretensions, just as it removes false modesty. It invites you to understand everything and everyone, to see yourself and others in the light of God and to joyfully tell everyone you meet that there is no reason to fear; the land is free to be cultivated and to yield a rich harvest.

It is not so simple, however. Risks are involved. For compassion means to build a bridge to others without knowing whether they want to be reached. Your brother or sister (or siblings) might be so embittered that he or she doesn’t expect anything from you. Then your compassion stirs up enmity, and it is difficult not to become sour yourself and say, “You see what I told you, it doesn’t work anyhow.”

And yet, compassion is possible when it is rooted in prayer. For in prayer, you do not depend upon your own strength or on the good will of another, but only upon your trust in God. That is why prayer makes you free to live a compassionate life even when it does not evoke a grateful response or bring immediate rewards.

Contemporary Reading:
Grateful: Praying with Open Hands
by Henri Nouwen

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Scripture Reading:
James 2:14-17 (NRSV)

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