Prayer holds together the shattered fragments of the creation. It makes history possible.
Today it is 15 years since the French theologian and social critic Jacques Ellul died. Alongside Barth, Yoder, and Hauerwas, he has influenced my theological thinking more than I probably can imagine, and I keep coming back to his writings time after time. If you want to find more information about Ellul online, you can find it at International Jacques Ellul Society and at Jesus Radicals.
Last Sunday it was the Prayer Sunday in the Swedish Church lectionary (Rogate, "Bönsöndagen" in Swedish), so why not take a quote from Ellul's daring, lucid, intelligent and painfully honest book on prayer:
"Prayer (and otherwise what would it be?) is the begetting of a future. It is not there to complete a past, nor assure a present. It is there to realize a future, to assure the possibility of a history, the history of my own life, that it be not the gloomy repetition of undefined moments without meaning. It is there to assure the history of my church, that it be not the inconsistency of good intentions and of formless impieties. It is there to assure the history of my people, that it be not an accumulation of oppressions, of hatreds and injustices. That is to say that prayer is there in order that there might truly be a history at all levels, and not a succession of futile, meaningless actions. ...
Nothingness at work expresses itself in the impossibility of history, in futility, in incongruity (the transient, the unstable, the irresponsible, the disorganized, the nonnormal, etc.). Prayer gives consistency to life, to action, to human relations, to the facts of human existence, both small and great. Prayer holds together the shattered fragments of the creation. It makes history possible. Therefore it is victory over nothingness."
Prayer and Modern Man (New York, The Seabury Press 1973, 1979; French 1970), p. 131-132, 177.