By Efio-Ita Nyok |7:00am |26 April 2015
J. S. Mbiti, the renowned Kenyan scholar in religious and cultural studies had in his seminal work, Africans Religion & Philosophy, asserted that 'Africa is notoriously religious'. By this submission, Mbiti attempted to qualify the depth of religious consciousness and orientation in majority of Africans. Permit me to say that, religion is to the African what money is to a woman.
Religion is the acknowledgement of a divine/supernatural order by a human subject. The divine is perceived to be all-sufficient in power (Omnipotent), in knowledge (Omniscient) and in goodness (Omni-beneficient). This explains the origin/place of prayer in religion.
Prayer therefore becomes an expression of insufficiency by humanity to an all-sufficient being. It's a request by the insufficient human to the all-sufficient God to fill his/her vacuum of insufficiency by reason of Its omnipotence, omniscience and omni-beneficience. There is nothing wrong in this disposition. Prayer is noble. It should serve the positive interest of humanity.
But, alas, the reverse is the case in some respect. In the case of Africa, prayer has done her much harm than good. Its disservices outweighs its services in the continent. The mere fact that Africa seem to lag behind in virtually everything in the global comity of nations attest to the assertion that our religiosity should be called to question.
Granted that we are insufficient, it should be emphasised that humanity was created in the image/stock of an all-sufficient God. In other words, in humanity there is a measure of power, knowledge and goodness. Successes in Science, Technology and the Humanities bears witness to this. The question becomes, why is Africa not participating markedly in this areas? Or, more expressly, what is the trouble with the 53 countries or near one billion persons that constitute Africa such that they do not express evidence of divine deposits of power, knowledge and goodness? This is the million dollar question!
Whereas, God is all-sufficient in power, knowledge and goodness; whereas, God created humanity in Its own image including Africans; it stands to reason then that humanity(Africa as well) participate in divine all-sufficiency in power, knowledge and goodness. That Africa, unlike others, is not seen to contribute markedly with her peers in Europe, America, Asia, etc, suggest strongly that the problem is with Africans. God is not and has never been to blame.
Without mincing words, the challenge with Africans is that of irresponsibility -the unwillingness to respond to the needful despite inherent abilities to act otherwise. Irresponsibility has stolen from Africans the unwillingness and thus ability to exploit the divinely embedded skills with which to better our lots. And the infamous way we express this ignoble trait is resorting to religion so much that Karl Marx would say 'religion is the opium of the masses'. That is to say, Africa's alleged notorious religiosity is not informed by genuine concerns but by our notorious irresponsibility.
We resort back to God to do what It had asked us from the beginning to do. We ask him to put food on our tables when It had given us a sound mind by which we can distribute our limited economic resources equally. We ask the divine to give us good leaders when the same divine has given us the ability to discern between good or bad political ideologies. We chose evil leaders because of ethnic or religious sentiments, meager leaflets, etc not minding the ideological implications, and turn again to pray to God that he/she act to our best interests while in office. The list continues.
When we pray to God to salvage the situation, we do so forgetting the fact that God has given us the solution already. So we pray -cry, sob, shout, thinking God will act but God refuses to act simply because It sees the hidden or unrefined skills It deliberately invested in us lying fallow. This has implications for the economy, politics and culture(by extension religion). Our irresponsibility breeds indolence rather than hard work.
We pray to an all-sufficient God to alleviate our plight; While God prays back to an Africa sufficient in power, knowledge and goodness. This dilemma reflects in a comatose economy, direction less politics and an unresponsive culture.
Prayer is an expression of wish and must not be understood as a religious paraphernalia only. Responsibility, that is, the deliberate initiative to exploit the inherent abilities, skills, or divine deposits by which we can make quanta leaps in science, technology, and the humanities, etc is the best form of prayer. Let the peoples of Africa secularise prayer by investing in researches in our educational institutions, at all level, clamping down on corruption, students should become studious, civil and public servants become honest in our dealings in government, religious leaders should lead by example, etc
If we chose to do otherwise by praying in churches, mosques, pour libations, do incantations, etc we should remember that God prays back to us -God doesn't respond to those acts of irresponsibility! If you wish, God doesn't answer prayers, at least in Africa. It had answered long time ago when it distinguished the continent through continental shift or whatever.
When we (Africans) pray to God, God prays back to us (Africans); because prayer is an act of irresponsibility (in Africa). Real prayer yield informed hard work and thus progress/development at all fronts.