It is not difficult to see why many are claiming that President Obama has been outfooted by President Putin, but does that really matter? The situation in Syria is so grave that any initiative that lessens the death toll or potential death toll is surely worth pursuing. Ridding the country of chemical weapons will take months if not years and will do nothing of itself to stop the killing, but oughtn’t we to do what we can, as we can, without ourselves adding to the carnage? Many people sneer at the idea of praying for peace, but maybe, just maybe, what President Putin has proposed is part of the answer to prayer. We still need to work at it, for prayer is never a magic solution doing away with the necessity for human effort. We shall never know what effect Pope Francis’s letter had on anyone at the G20 summit, just as we shall never know what really motivates any individual (there is often a gap between what is said or done and what goes on inside someone’s head and heart). Prayer can achieve what politicking cannot for the simple reason that it allows God into situations from which we have intentionally excluded him.
We have only to look at what is happening in Sinai to realise how like a tinderbox the whole of the Middle East is, and how terribly people are suffering. If those of us who believe do not respond by spending more time on our knees, what kind of Christians are we?