Can we stop hiding incompetence, criminality and corruption in prayer?

Saturday September 05 2020

Let us assume that the Bible, the most popular book, is literally true. The Bible has many chapters and verses, but I will single out those related to prayer. People who read the Bible closely are familiar with the following: Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16.

Each of these verses tells believers that they can get anything if they pray. All they have to do is pray, and they get what they want. Mark 11:24 sums it up best: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

According to the Bible, prayer is not supposed to fail. The Bible is the word of God. God, the Supreme Being that believers believe created the universe, cannot lie. In fact, “thou shalt not lie” is one of his Ten Commandments.

Yet the naked truth is that nothing fails like prayer. When you have a problem and pray for a solution, you will be merely talking to yourself while the problem remains unsolved. We have seen this since time immemorial. Africa, for example, has been praying for decades, and is the most prayerful continent, but it remains the world’s poorest.

We can conduct a simple experiment to test the efficacy of prayer. We know Ugandans are yearning for a change in leadership, having been ruled by one man for 34 years. The vast majority of these Ugandans are religious people who take prayer seriously and believe in the power of prayer. They really believe prayer works.

We can ask people living in Kampala to go to Mandela National Stadium and pray. Those living in rural areas can do the same from their homes. We will pray every single day, and our goal will be simple: We want God to hear our prayers and make it impossible for President Museveni to win re-election. Can our prayers be answered? The short answer is no. We will be simply talking to ourselves. There is no way to know the prayers will be heard and answered. There is no way to know we will hear back from the supposed prayer answerer.


So why are our leaders obsessed with prayer—the latest prayer event took place on August 29 at State House—when evidence suggests that prayer cannot and does not solve problems?

The principal reason is that our political leaders have failed to tackle the country’s problems. As people continue to criticise the government for incompetence and corruption, amid allegations that the mafia (read: criminals) now run Uganda, prayer has become the solution.

When leaders pray, they lead gullible people to think they are holy and that solutions to problems will be found.
The government is horrendously corrupt and incompetent but keeps praying. Uganda’s score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index suggests the country is one of the most corrupt in Africa. How has prayer eliminated corruption?

Evidence of incompetence lies in poor social service delivery. Government officials continue to use private hospitals and shun public ones because they do not work. During the Covid-19 lockdown, the government could not even provide food to people in Kampala who were out of work.

For Mr Museveni, it seems prayer events are organised because of the political mileage he gets from the faithful and religious leaders.

Mr Museveni always moves in convoys with armed soldiers. If he really believes in the power of prayer and God, why does he not let prayers and God protect him?

Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk @kazbuk