· Lazy habits and sustainable development goals will never mix.
Why do poor African countries continue to pray so much but choose to do so little? There’s the gnawing wish list – perpetuated by tithe hungry prophets – for the good things in life: nice cars, designer clothes, gold jewels, wide screen TVs, mobile phones, and the rest; but why neglect to emphasise the relevant vocations and industries that make those wonderful things possible?
No such thing as a free miracle
It’s so childish indeed, this business of wanting the good things in life without putting in the thinking and the work that goes into making those wonderful things possible. To crown such infantile attitudes, factories and industries have been bought, dismantled and converted for all night and day prayer vigils, daring God to leave His throne and come down to grow crops, provide transport, remove the trash, clean the gutters, fill our potholes, and then proceed to deliver a strong currency for the nation’s prosperity.
Each morning, like so many others, I am besieged on WhatsApp by numerous incantations, prophesies, decrees and spells like this one: “God will reposition you for breakthroughs, miracles, great and notable achievements … He will vindicate from you every physical and spiritual falsehood. Every decision that shall be taken up by any panel concerning your matter shall end up in your favour. Every unrepentant enemy of your glorious destiny shall be perpetually silenced …” on and on.
Meanwhile, the silent prayer between me and God is very simple: “Dear God, my heavenly father, please give me the strength and guidance to do my very best work.” Finished! The idea is to focus and commit to one’s purpose without fear! I often cite for teachers and students, the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition that “The fear of fear is fear itself”.
In that regard, I restrain both the young and old as follows: “You need to be afraid if you peddle half-truths and malicious gossip about others: You need to be afraid if you run after other men’s wives: You need to be afraid if you run after other women’s husbands: You need to be afraid if you trade in illicit drugs: You need to be afraid if you burgle other people’s homes. But if you do none of such hideous things, the blessings will tend to come to you naturally without some confidence trickster preaching down your neck for your money.”
Hiding behind the cloak of religiosity
In a column, I noted that a leader’s unflinching grit to look at his people straight in the face and tell them the uncomfortable but necessary truths is the stuff of which greatness is made. That courage reminded me of a conference organised by the Methodist University College (in March, 2017) dubbed: “International Conference on Entrepreneurship, Business and Technology” (ICEBUT). In the opening remarks, President Nana Akufo Addo urged Ghanaians “to desist from hiding behind the cloak of religiosity to indulge in habits that have robbed the state of countless hours of productive time.”
He said, “We arrive at work late and then spend the first hour in prayer; we become clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work because it is the official closing time. Everything comes to a stop when it rains and we seem to expect the rest of the world also to stop.”
The president charged the leadership of the various religions and unions to lead a campaign to change that awful attitude: “We have no respect for the hours set aside for work. We pray; we eat; we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the telephone. We take a week off for every funeral and then we wonder why we are not competitive.”
God rewards hard work
In 2016, I drove through the Silicon Valley to Palo Alto (California, USA) to visit Facebook and Stanford University. Enter Facebook and you witness the very epitome of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. You start with the gardeners tending the flowers and lawns, and cleaning doors and windows. You see workmen painting the curb and clearing dust and dead leaves into garbage trucks.
Enter Stanford and the pride of ownership engulfs you heartedly. The commitment, the timeliness, and the diligence with which functions are attended to are so deep that they put shallow prayers to shame. The toilets in a library, for example, were so clean that you could see your face in the polished floors.
Miracles are created by God through the work of ordinary men and women who appreciate their godly responsibilities. Miracles are truly in abundance to any person no matter the prayers or religion. As Mahatma Gandhi put it so wisely: “God has no religion”. Spirituality helps those who are awake to make the world a better place.
The sustainable development goals
There was such a hue and cry about Donald Trump calling African nations “S#@%holes”. That brought to mind the three sides of a coin. One side held that the US President had no right to insult Africans; and that is correct. The second side advocated that it’s time for Africans to call a spade a spade and accept the reality where the youth scrambled in droves to escape poverty to places where they are detested and abused; and that is also true.
In considering the two premises, the third side, the edge of the coin, invites the critical thinker to think into the future: to believe, unequivocally, that with or without Donald Trump’s insults or reminders, Africa needs to focus and make the seventeen sustainable development goals happen. That is where the continent’s spiritual responsibilities lay, to ease the pain of the people. Amen!