In his new book, The Politics of Discipleship, Graham Ward gives an interesting reflection on prayer and politics. A bit of background first. There are two important things about the church for Ward: (1) it is deeply implicated (“hardwired into”) in the world. “Whatever action the church undertakes, whatever proclamations it makes, is located in the world’s time and spaces, its histories, its societies, its cultures, its languages, and its ideologies.” (24) (2) It participates in the trinitarian life of God, “in God’s own self-expression, rooted in the economy of God’s grace toward creation.” (276) It is this participation, rather than its conformity to an institutional "type", that makes it what it is.
Both these assumption make prayer the most profoundly political act. Our implicatedness means that in prayer we lay before God “all the concerns and connections we have with the contemporary world.... All these events [of the world] pass through us and change us. And as we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, then they pass through Christ also.” Far from an escape, prayer is “deep inhabitation of the world, its flesh and its spirit, that stirs a contemplation and a reading of the signs of the times that is more than we can ever apprehend or appreciate.” Prayer is “the Urgrund of Christian discipleship; we live and act as transistors for the transformation of the world through Christ.” (281–282)
But prayer mediates the other way as well. As Maximus the Confessor wrote, we should listen to our yearning in prayer, which is a “reaching out of our desire for communion with Christ.” For in this yearning, we hear the yearning of the church, the body of Christ across space and time, and “the yearning in the heart of Christ to heal and transform.” This yearning will make us restless with the status quo. But the fact that we remain implicated in the world will also remind us that we too will be subject to the judgement that signals transformation (282).
In all this, prayer is the “primordial participation” in the Kingdom yet to come, and the action that flows from prayer is “the condition of the possibility of ... hope.” (283)