The national day of prayer and fasting

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Dear Editor,

I like the idea of a National Day of Prayer and Fasting, since I am a praying man for many things. Believe it or not, I pray for our leaders-President, Vice President, Ministers, Opposition members, and others-and for them to flourish in doing the things that are best for all the peoples of this society. Most times, I discern that my prayers haven’t touched a chord where they are directed, but I persist daily, as I think it is necessary. As for fasting on a national scale, I am neither here nor there, since I have never been a devotee of that strain; my preference is for other forms of offering and self-sacrifice.

Still, I would be less than myself if I do not articulate as part of today’s public service that I see these ‘national’ exercises relative to prayer (and whatever else) as more of pomp and pageantry, an occasion for a gathering, and not much beyond. I must be clear: I will not profane any man’s prayer, nor desecrate anything to do with prayer from any source. But as a doer and practitioner of what I pray for, I now make my own call to all, starting from His Excellency and spreading across, about, and down in this Guyana of ours.
Prayers are useless if they are only about a moment, a show. If they lack genuineness and depth, if they lack conviction and truth, if they collide with our actions, then it might have been better if we all (myself included) engaged in the usual revelries and debaucheries, mostly individual, largely official, oftentimes in secrecy. We can pray for our country, but we must be resolved deep within to desire to do something good, however little, for the man who is hungry and thirsty and naked and sick. To those I beg to be pardoned when I add those in jail, those self-destructive.

Editor, I would hate (no! that’s too strong a word for this writing, I substitute detest and disagree) if our grand national occasion of prayerful assembling does peter out into the circumstances where those ragged citizens, brothers and sisters all, are turned away from, ignored and scorned, even feared. Where those who just finished praying look the other way when they observe a wretched apparition, a man no less, approaching with his hand outstretched and less than a few stiches to cover his oozing sores, his tortured spirit. Where after heartfelt prayer, there is distancing from those who look differently, who look like they are possessed by a different politics (get my drift, please), who quickly assume the proportions of the despised enemies that we have housed in our hearts.


I have my doubts about the utility of prayer in such instances, less than broad national gatherings, be such on a regular Sunday, or during a season (Lent), or a month (Ramadan), or an interlude (Navaratri). For if there is no authenticity of the soul, no bona fides of a sincere faith, and no determination at following the mantras and commandments, then we should cease the preaching and praying and concentrate on prioritizing the doing, practicing, living.

Currently, we are pleased with ourselves to pontificate about ‘One Guyana’ which resonates, if only for its sound, its possibilities. But I sense that there is another Guyana that just doesn’t wish to have anything to do with that kind of ‘oneness’, the source of its origins, the visions of its encircling grasp. Is it code word/term? Is it nothing more than the jargon of a ringing marketing paean lacking in reach, but subtle in its silky limitations? What about those who have other ideas of what ‘One Guyana’ means, or should?

I like the thinking of praying for these things, under these umbrellas, but I would like it more to observe the deeds that go hand in hand with the sweet words and sweeter promise. It is where adversaries are not target for vilification and demonization; where neighborly friendship aces unforgiving partisanship; where authenticity replaces hypocrisy. Be such from me or His Excellency.

These aspects of life in Guyana are not going to evolve from a day, a speech, a fleeting moment of orchestrated humility. We have to do the work, give of ourselves, and constantly, as well as quietly, outside of the cameras and the thrilling self-congratulations that we attach to our handiworks. We must work tirelessly, constantly, and then we may see our way someplace else. Perhaps.

GHK Lall

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