How can prayer stop poverty and injustice?

How can prayer stop poverty and injustice?

This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal on Sept. 24, 2015.

Sometimes, I feel like the world can’t win.

I’m an activist going on 20 years now, and lately, I have felt the lows of giving a crap.  I read the news, talk with friends and colleagues who study global policy, and wade through my inbox and the sea of nonprofit emails.

Why is there so much injustice in the world? Why are a billion people living in extreme poverty? Honestly, if I wasn’t getting paid to work at an NGO or didn’t have so many friends and family working on these issues, I’d probably hide my head in a hole, turn on Netflix, and wait for it all to pass. 

But hiding never solves anything.  So, I drag on and do what I can to help: organizing, volunteering, clicking, and sharing—whatever it takes to combat these issues and help make the world a better place. 

On Friday, September 25, the United Nations announced a set of sustainable development goals they say are the blueprint for how the world tackles poverty, injustice, and climate. It’s the biggest agreed-upon global plan since World War II and dignitaries like Pope Francis, Malala Yousafzai, President Obama and Prime Ministers Cameron and Merkel were on hand to praise and promote these new goals.

There are 17 total goals on topics that include poverty, education, water, climate, and women’s issues… you name it! Many nonprofits and media partners are working on promoting these goals. There are a lot of YouTube videos being promoted and blogs to be read. There was a big concert in Central Park with famous musicians, actors, and politicians all telling us why we should care. There’s even a call to pray for these goals and the world—a Prayer for Everyone.

Photo credit: PrayerforEveryone.org

Photo credit: PrayerforEveryone.org

I‘m a Buddhist: Prayer isn’t really part of my practice. And besides, how does praying ever accomplish anything? Sure, I pray when my flight hits turbulence or I want my favorite team to win. But when does a well-meaning prayer ever really change anything?

But… I am going to pray. I’ll sit and meditate and my mind will quickly pass through images and thoughts of what it means to end suffering for the impoverished and the planet. I’ll reset my mind to think about how injustice takes us off the path and how we can take the next generation to make changes. I’ll think of my own personal involvement with these issues and steel myself for the work that lies ahead.

And what if more people prayed? Well, a prayer alone won’t change things magically. But, it will be a good starting point for some people who want to recognize the problems that exist in the world and how we help can stop them.  A prayer is a meaningful step to change what you thought about the world and how to dedicate yourself to making it better. Millions of people praying can lead to millions of people becoming more aware of these issues and helping change things to make a difference.

So starting this week, I’ll pray. And then, I’ll roll up my sleeves and work with others creating change. I’ll Google the groups who work on the sustainable development goals and join their efforts. I’ll share and tweet with my friends and colleagues and spread the word. I’ll volunteer locally and get involved when and where I can. I’ll pray, meditate, and keep caring… because the alternative is a lot worse. 

Garth Moore is the US Digital Director for the ONE Campaign and a practicing Buddhist.

Join Prayer For Everyone between now and October 1, learn about the Global Goals, and help us fight extreme poverty!

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