The Wall Street Journal caught my attention (March 7) in an article headlined “Heavenly Forex (Foreign Exchange) Intervention Sought.”
Accompanying the article was a dramatic photo of a believer imploring God with face turned heavenward, eyes tightly closed, arms lifted and palms stretched heavenward. Drew Hinshaw’s (no relation) article, which focused on the declining value of many African currencies, included this prayer by evangelical church pastor Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams regarding the value of the Ghanaian currency (the cedi): “I command the resurrection of the cedi in the name of Jesus!”
Then the cleric directed his attention to the devil himself by ordering Satan: “Take your hands off the central bank!”
In my years of pastoral prayers I never strayed into monetary policy, central banks or foreign exchange rates, although in the late ’70s with 18 percent annual inflation I may have come pretty close. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke or present Chairperson Janet Yellen never made it into a single petition, even though over the years I prayed by name for presidents and governors and mayors.
It just never occurred to me to implore God over monetary policy or to order Satan to keep his hands off filthy lucre.
The WSJ article explained that economists had a more sanguine explanation for why the cedi has lost 11 percent of its value in 2014. They said it had to do with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to reduce bond purchases. Should I have taken an economics class in seminary? How fiscally savvy does a pastor have to be to pray the appropriate monetary prayer?
The very same page of The Wall Street Journal contained two more articles dealing with money. One was headlined “China’s E-Money Funds Lose Buzz,” the other was titled, “Report Rattles Bitcoin World.”
The proximity of these three articles reminded me that what Jesus called “mammon” is almost always in our forethought. If pastors petitioned God over the ripples caused by a nearly bankrupt Ukraine; the disappearance of millions of dollars of the virtual currency bitcoin; the disastrously tipsy economies of Argentina and Venezuela; the barely fiscally stable nations of Greece, Portugal and Italy; the millions whose credit card information was hacked at Target, and whether the U.S. Mint should continue to make pennies … there would be no time for anything else in worship.
Maybe such prayers would be a good thing. For many people, trying to make ends meet on a daily basis is enough to make them want a walk in the woods seeking tin cans full of rare gold coins like the northern California couple who discovered just such a treasure on their property.
The prayer of the Ghanaian pastor may not have been one I would have prayed, at least not that emphatically or specifically. But it has made me think about whether church prayers should include the mundane, persistent, often terrifying issues of wealth, poverty and lack of control in a world-wide economic system.
One doesn’t need to be a student of any particular economic school or a business school grad to pray about money and the economy at seasons other than the church stewardship campaign.
Creede Hinshaw, of Macon, is a retired Methodist minister.