Praying for the Cedi

Poster for a recent Duncan-Williams event

Recently, a storm of criticism erupted on social media when a week of prayer and fasting was declared in Zambia to fight a cholera outbreak. The idea was mocked and ridiculed, even by some Christians, because they would prefer to see efforts directed toward better public sanitation. A similar thing happened a few years ago when the Ghana currency, the Cedi (pronounced see-dee), was losing value against the dollar. A falling Cedi causes inflation in Ghana. Everyone was talking about it and it was constantly in the news.

One day, I saw in the news that a well-known charismatic preacher had prayed for the Cedi, commanding it to stop falling in value. Most newspapers and radio stations carried the story. I heard conversations between Ghana Christians on the topic.

The critics said the government should exercise more fiscal responsibility; that praying for a miracle was not the right way forward. Others expressed their support. Being a fiscal conservative, I thought the criticism raised some valid points. But I also thought that criticizing prayer was unnecessary. That’s because I don’t have any confidence in the understanding or desires of those who pray, including leading pastors or even myself. But I do have confidence in God. He will hear the prayer and respond based on his infinite wisdom and from his heart of righteousness and love.

It strikes me as both unnecessary and prideful to try to get our prayers exactly right. But insisting that others get their prayers right strikes me as dangerous – something likely to reduce faith and discourage prayer. God is all-wise. So why do we think people have to pray exactly the right thing? The critics expected the people praying to understand the factors that influence exchange rates and pray for the right factor(s) to change. Of course, even economists disagree on what should be done, so good luck getting that one right. I prefer to count on God.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words, (Romans 8:26)

Maybe my old age is making me lazy, but I now like to pray for things that bother me even when I don’t understand the issues at all.

PS: I accidentally sent out this post by email some months ago. My apologies to those who are getting it for the second time.

New cedis and old cedis

2000 old cedis (2001) - then worth a few dollars

2000 old cedis (2001) – then worth a few dollars

A few years ago, the Ghana money – the cedi – experienced very high inflation, driving prices of ordinary things into the 1 million cedi range. So new money was introduced, with the same name. They lopped off four zeros. So 10,000 old cedis equaled one new cedi. All the old cedis were exchanged for new.

But a lot of Ghanaians still give prices in old cedis because that is what they know best. A long  time ago, a similar thing happened in France with the French Franc and many French people kept giving prices in old francs for quite a few years.

Two new Cedis

Two new Cedis – a little more than one dollar

But for me it is confusing. I am trying to develop the ability to divide by 10,000 and multiply by 10,000 quickly in my head, while carrying on a conversation and at the same time converting the new cedis to dollars, in my head, by dividing by 1.7. I’m too old for this! I do have one conversion down pat: 1,000,000 old cedis is 100 new, which is about 60 dollars.

One Sunday at announcement time in church, the man making an announcement about money, gave it in new cedis, but people wanted the amount in old cedis. So he tried to do the conversion in his head on the spot. He gave a number. That was wrong and the congregation let him know. So he revised the figure. Wrong again and again he was informed of that fact. We went round and round until everyone was thoroughly confused, not least of all the man giving the announcement. The figure he was trying to communicate was the amount for the church’s annual fund-raising drive!

And so it was that I discovered a negative effect of high inflation which is not discussed in economics textbooks.

Five new cedis

Five new cedis – about $3