If you looked at my list of top artists in 2019, Spotify would tell you that I am a millennial who enjoys “old” music. Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul, and Mary took the lead in the list of music I listened to this year, which led to an uncovering of a handful of gems from artists around the same time. One such artist was Alí Primera, a Venezuelan musician, and political activist, who wrote a song titled “No Basta Rezar” (Praying Isn’t Enough). The first time I heard this song, it struck me because of the relevancy of its words and hit me again as I thought about what we need to do as the Church in this new year and decade.
No, no, basta rezar. Hacen falta muchas cosas para conseguir la paz
(No, no, praying isn’t enough. Many things are needed in order to obtain peace).
As Presbyterians, we are very good at praying. We are very good at crafting statements and other documents, making sure that periods, commas, and semicolons are in their proper places. But I think we’ve reached an apex where words are no longer enough. People are looking for something real, something authentic, something that goes beyond spoken prayers and enters the realm of living prayers. Praying isn’t enough as we head into this new decade, and the challenge for us is to consider how our prayers will translate into an actual life-giving change in our communities.
En el mundo no habrá paz mientras haya explotación del hombre por el hombre y exista desigualdad.
(In the world, there won’t be peace while exploitation of humans by humans and inequality exists.)
I would say don’t “@” me just yet because I’m not saying that prayer is no longer needed. Prayer is needed! But our prayers can no longer take the comforting or familiar forms we are used to. As we head into another culturally acknowledged passing of time, it is my hope that our prayers will move from being not enough to enough. It is my prayer that the words that we speak take hold and transform us to embody living prayers that radically alter us. That is my challenge for us as the Church this year. It is something that I am challenging myself and my congregation to discern. Let’s identify critical needs in our communities; let’s start tackling issues of racism, environmentalism, etc. Because if we only say our prayers, then we are missing out on the part of our call where we are co-laborers and co-creators.
What Alí Primera sings is true, “Many things are needed in order to obtain peace.” So may we pray together, sweat together, bleed together, cry together, sing together, and celebrate together as we head out to put our prayers into action using all our gifts and talents.
Rev. Casey Carbone serves as the bi-vocational pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Mahopac. He considers himself to be a coffee snob, which fuels his ministry, music, and work outside the church.