On Thursday evening last week I visited Parliament to pray for the future of our country. Now I’m not a Christian, so I’m pretty sure my prayers aren’t going to make a difference, but it’s interesting to see what influential Christians think about what is wrong with our country and how it should be fixed.
This was my fourth time at this quarterly prayer event, and it’s been interesting to see the party membership of the MPs who attend. Most have been National MPs, and there are several reasons why this might be. It could be that more National MPs than Labour MPs are Christian. It could be that Labour MPs, being in power, are too busy to attend. Or it could be that National MPs, being in opposition, are actively looking to expand their voter base by reaching out to groups who tend to vote as a block, such as Christians.
The format of the evening is for three MPs or other political guests (e.g. the mayor of Wellington) to highlight an issue for 5 or 10 minutes, and then for attendees to break into groups of five to pray for a further few minutes about the topic. This time we were asked (by National MPs Simeon Brown and Melissa Lee) to pray for our country’s leaders, and for Christian MPs. My group included someone who spoke in tongues, but what was more surprising was that when we were asked to pray for MPs the prayers turned weird. My prayer partners started talking about how they wanted god to take control of MPs when speaking on issues, to cause them to speak words that they would not normally speak - and that in doing so, they would be left wondering why they spoke contrarily to their beliefs, and this would bring them to know god. The idea that there are people in this country, people who deem themselves to be upright and honest, who would like their god to remove the free will of those they disagree with leaves me feeling pretty creeped out.
Despite this unease, at these events I pray to ensure I fit in - I prayed last week about the failed cannabis referendum (which, incidentally, I voted for not against - unlike Jacinda, I’m happy to talk about how I voted!).