“Prayer,” Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “may not bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city. But prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, rebuild a weakened will.”
These words reveal a profound truth. Faith is not about power. Faith is not about numbers. Faith is about the spirit.
This view runs counter to so much in our deeply fractured politicized world. We look for solutions in politics. We look for salvation in the shopping mall. We look for meaning outside of ourselves.
The great religious traditions offer a counter-voice. They remind us of the gifts often obscured by the surrounding fog.
Indeed, religion does not always offer something new. It helps us see what we have failed to notice.
A fabulous parable illustrates this truth. I first heard it from the late writer David Foster Wallace. Two young fish are swimming in the water. They happen to meet an older fish swimming the opposite way. The older fish nods at them and says, “Morning boys, how’s the water?”
They say nothing and swim off. A few minutes later, one of them turns to the other and says, “What in the world is water?”
Water is the blessing of life. It is the knowledge that to be alive is a gift. It is the wisdom to give thanks; to keep our promises and commitments; to leave the world a better place for having been here.
It is the knowledge that faith changes the world through the hearts and hands of human beings.