In the narrative of Abraham’s conversation with God concerning the destruction of Sodom we find an example of the faithful fulfilment of the calling of the people of God. We are to be those who seek to preserve the world from condemnation by our righteous and life-giving presence within it, tenaciously refusing to abandon it to its destruction.
According to 1 Kings 8, prayer is what Israel is supposed to do in times of helpless hopelessness. The temple is where they turn when there is nowhere to turn. Israel as a whole was invited to appeal to the High King for help in times of trial, and the text leads us to wonder if every polity directs its hopes toward a temple.
‘And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.’ The notion of love overflowing in knowledge is odd to modern Western ears, accustomed as we are to a divide between reason and affections. However, such a love that overflows in knowledge could transform much of our politics.
The term ‘cosmos’ is used in a number of different senses in Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Within the fluidity of Jesus’ employment of this term we find a multi-faceted characterization of the world that can inform our politics.
Jesus introduces a new principle of division into history, forcing all to show hands previously held to close to their chests. As Jesus precipitates division and judgment in history, he shapes the destinies of societies and nations and explodes the myth that he is an apolitical Messiah.
In light of the two kingdoms doctrine and the separation of church and state, understanding the appropriate form of Christian prayer for and engagement with the political realities of our societies can be complex. In Jeremiah’s message to an exiled people, we find a pattern for prayer in a pluralistic context, a calling that identifies our primary task to be one of seeking the common good and welfare of our communities, rather than one of submission or conversion.