“Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). While Scripture permanently reminds us, with these words of St. James, that it is not enough just to believe that something is true without actualizing that faith concretely, we can in fact focus centrally on what it is we believe. Indeed we need, every now and then, to examine our beliefs regarding certain spheres of action. If our actions are producing ill effects, it may in fact be the case that our beliefs have gone astray, and we have substituted presumption in place of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium.
This reflection is inspired by a strange article of a secular former evangelical author (http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/pray-those-abortions-away), Valerie Tarico. Seemingly without realizing the dynamic, Tarico has started to dance around the ancient rule of faith which the Catholic Church has always and still holds true: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi. Literally, the “Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief.” In other words, our faith is informed by how we pray, and if you really want to know what we believe, look at what we pray, how we pray. A prayer shows a world view. And as world views differ greatly, so prayers differ greatly.
Thus, if we look at what we pray and how we pray concerning abortion, it will show what one believes. Should the realm of action need to be addressed, the faith that informs such works is certainly informed by the prayers of such faith. There is plenty of action is the pro-life realm, some more meritorious, some less so. Prayer itself is one action. Witness can be separate. Counseling, condemnation, accompaniment, or annoyance would all be possible descriptions of other activities of pro-life initiatives. I only summarize a whole other set with the term of Political Action in this list. And in all of these, prayer can be very telling as to the goals that are at hand. Here are some thoughts about what and how to pray, which ought in fact to inform what beliefs accompany any kind of consequent action.
Pray that pregnant mothers would find true hope. Hope is not what so many people think it to be. It is not really the virtue or the vision that secularists, humanist, or Christians or Catholics for that matter, often make it out to be. For a mother’s heart to have hope, some instrument, some word, some vision must put in it a glimpse of the infinite goodness of Jesus Christ. It is dependent on grace, and it is not dependent on proselytism or even honest evangelization. It is born in the heart from the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit. As St. Augustine says, if we did not know this hope existed, we would not know that we long for something we cannot describe. But if we knew exactly what it was, we would then describe what it is that we longed. That hope belongs to God, because it is something in the mystery of who he is. It is shared by him in his ways. And because it does not belong to us, yet he has shared it with us, we must pray that others too can receive it. It is incumbent on the Christian to pray this hope come to every soul lost in the evil of abortion, or to the evil of abortion. This is the hope that transforms lives from despair to eternal joy. How can we model it for others if we do not want it for others? Can we want it for others if we do not pray it for others?
Pray for homes to be places of integrated virtues that support chastity. It is not enough merely to pray for chastity for teens and the unmarried adults. It is much more likely that young people will maintain a more chaste disposition in life, and enter better marriages, when it is formed in them by good parents. To become good examples of balanced life for many unprepared parents, this would go a long way in getting their children on a better track for healthy emotional relationships. In terms of social strategies, this would greatly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, thus eliminating so much of the demand for abortion.
Pray for holy, godly, foster parents. Of course not every parent is going to raise their children in a healthy emotional way. There will unfortunately be those exceptions – may they become more rare – where others have to play the role of mother and father, assuming the roles spiritually as the “substitute” for them practically. The fact that there are so many emotional and sexual relationships currently proceeding in an unhealthy way, means that much work and sacrifice is going to be needed to guide people (here the impressionable kids and teens in foster care) in a life path of emotional re-integration.
Pray for many celibate vocations. It’s ok to be the camp of St. Paul who said “I wish all lived [the celibate life] as I did” (1 Cor. 7:7). It would indeed be great if, say, the Sisters of Life grew 100,000 strong and could be in every major city, to love and serve every place where abortion is a pressure on families and single parents. Pray that a dozen other consecrated orders or institutes are raised up with similar apostolates. Consecrated orders or institutes could assist those who choose not to abort after learning that they must deal with birth defects and medical difficulties. Such an answered prayer would not only shift the balance to give a whole and complete life to so many innocent families that deserve better than the world has offered them; it would strangely satisfy the laments of those who feel there are too many people on earth, at least temporarily. If a certain pattern holds, it would end up fostering fostering healthy marriages and family life, not deter from them. So it could of course lead to more Catholic families having 14 children in the future.
Pray that this cup may pass by. We know the significance of this phrase. We know when it was first prayed, and whose lips it came from. We too should pray this, as we also pray those words “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s prayer. We must pray these things. We must long for the Second Coming of our Lord when he will right every wrong and correct every injustice. Yet in the mean time, we know that the cup may still be handed to us. This leads to one last, all important, consequent prayer.
Pray that the Father’s will be done. What looks like utter failure to us (e.g. the Cross) may in fact lead to the greatest good (viz. the Resurrection). Oh how great the wisdom of a life united to Christ, where the words he taught us in Matthew 6, the Lord's Prayer, informs every petition we make, every prayer we offer, every action that is a result of our beliefs.