Our Summer Series of Guest Writers continues with the Rev. Daniel Buttry,
international consultant on peace and justice for
American Baptist Churches. I’ve invited Dan to write about the values behind our prayers for cities. Here are his stories: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
What does integrity look like in you? Millions of people pray—but does prayer have anything to do with a person’s character? Is your integrity related to your prayer?
I shared yesterday about some p ublic figures who had compromised their integrity—yet still had the audacity to preach to us about prayer. My examples were all purported Christians, like me—those of you of other faiths can envision similar problems in your traditions). But if these public figures really knew the Bible, then they would know God demands godly character as part of the transformation that takes place in prayer. Isaiah 58 speaks of those who participate in oppression of workers—saying that such action “will not make your voice heard on high.”
But integrity is more than what is done in public. Integrity begins in private. A friend of mine describes “character” as what you do when nobody is watching.
What do you do when nobody is watching? Is the face you present to the public consistent with your private personae?
In the Christian scriptures, Jesus tells us to pray in the closet. He also warns us that what we say in secret will be shouted from the housetops. Our city officials have put their prayers in public and kept their extortions secret—though now that’s all coming out in some tragic cases here in Detroit, just as Jesus had warned.
Wherever you live—and whatever your faith tradition—I’ll bet these issues resonate in your own life, don’t they? What do you want to keep quiet? What are you willing to have made public?
These are tough questions! I have a friend who is a local politician. She ran for office specifically to counter the deplorable character shown in much of the public behavior of our officials. To live out the integrity she proclaimed she determined not to use any negative advertising or personal attacks against other candidates in her campaign. She was the target of some vicious mud-slinging from one of her opponents. But she chose to not respond in kind. She had the integrity to live out her values of treating people with respect in one of the toughest arenas imaginable—politics.
What is the tough arena for you to exhibit integrity?
If you want to pray for your city, you’ve got to start living out godly character. The process begins deep inside and, as you pray—as God shapes your integrity—I believe that’s how God begins to shape your actions. Pray for the city—Yes! But also pray about how you can live privately and publicly with integrity.
How about you? Who has demonstrated character and integrity in how they live in your city? What does that character and integrity look like?
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