Missing Prayers for Egypt

Apologies to all for not getting up a Friday Prayers for Egypt this past weekend. On one count I was traveling in Upper Egypt, and when I returned home I was quite fatigued and fell ill.

But on another count I hardly knew what to pray for.

Faithful readers of this theme will notice that the prayers are often similar, no matter how current political events shape them. I pray for what is right and just to triumph. I pray for those men of ill intent or selfish ambition to be exposed. I pray for the Egyptian people to live in freedom and sovereignty. I pray for peace and honor to be exchanged by all.

I try not to let my own interpretations of these matters enter the prayers, for these are only seen through a glass darkly. I thank you for praying along with me, and adding the details as you see fit.

But last Friday – albeit hampered by sickness – I had nothing.

We should be able to pray in all circumstances, of course, and to a degree I did. But finding the words to help shape your prayers for Egypt was too tricky.

Why? One, the repetition of the themes of these prayers seemed empty, for whatever reason. Two, the reason could be that so much is now out of the hands of the people and main players, and in the hands of the law.

It is harder to pray for the law.

Presidential run-off elections between the candidate of the old regime and the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood are scheduled for June 16-17. Since I am not praying at this moment, I can be candid in stating neither one of these choices is especially appealing – a fact recognized by about half of Egyptians as well. So asking prayer for the right choice – and either candidate may the choice of God’s best – while necessary, is difficult and somewhat depressing.

But that is not what killed the prayer. On June 14 there are two court cases due which may dramatically alter the Egyptian landscape.

One concerns the constitutionality of parliament. If the technicality is applied, which has precedent in Egyptian law, parliament could be dissolved. This may throw Islamists, perhaps revolutionaries, and some liberals into a fit.

The other concerns the constitutionality of the candidate of the old regime. Parliament quickly issued a law – targeting him – to bar high placed figures from Mubarak’s government. On June 14 the court will rule if the law is applied. If so, it eliminates him as a candidate, but no one knows exactly what would happen next.

So back to the prayer – how do you offer prayer for an event that may not even take place?

With a few more days of reflection I can say we can pray for these decisions; perhaps one or the other is best for Egypt’s transition. We can certainly pray for the heart of the judges who must navigate the corridor of what the law says, what is best given the revolutionary situation, and whatever pressures are put to them, if any. There situation is not enviable.

But even here, from my vantage point the legal pretexts seem flimsy, and the question of the independence and integrity of the judiciary is under heavy suspicion. Like much in Egypt, few if any know the full truth amidst propaganda, manipulation, and lies. And in the end, all conspiracies may well be empty.

But these circumstances are poison for event-specific prayer life.

Which returns the prayers, if offered, back to the repetition of general themes:

I pray for what is right and just to triumph. I pray for those men of ill intent or selfish ambition to be exposed. I pray for the Egyptian people to live in freedom and sovereignty. I pray for peace and honor to be exchanged by all.

God intends us not only to pray without ceasing, but also to make our prayers like the incessant cries of a widow demanding her rights from an unjust judge.

I will leave the formulation to you this week, but thank you for carrying this baton, if not this cross. Egypt is certainly in need in these coming days.

Even then, if all is normal, they then have a presidential election two days later.

God, be merciful.

Amen.

 

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