How do you praise your God? How do you pray to Him? Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
Ghanaians believe. Posters and billboards advertising conventions, new churches, miracle prayers, religious matters of all sorts are spread all around Ghana. Pastors of every Christian denomination proclaim the Word of God in radio and television, in buses, street corners and market squares. Everywhere you can hear the word: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! His name and image are found in many contexts-often employed more in a magical way than as a personal approach to God.
Self-proclaimed pastors and prophets are another thing. We should remember what the Carpenter from Nazareth said: ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing’. Being a pastor in Ghana is partly a way of making money. Being a well-established pastor in Ghana can prove extremely lucrative. Mixed in with authentic pastors are a great number of tricksters but exploring this phenomenon was not the purpose of my project.
In this story, through pictures, I have tried to focus on prayer as such. I visited numerous prayer camps, places where all Christian denominations gather to concentrate on prayer and fasting. In the course of my visit, I met people who stay and fast up to forty days and take no food at all, who are in short quite comparable to biblical characters.
Most of these believers come from Ghana, some travel from neighboring countries such as Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. In general, they are members of various Charismatic, Pentecostal, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. They pray in tongues (it is believed to be a gift from the Holy Spirit known as glossolalia); they clap their hands, dance, play tambourines and drums, break the hold of demons over people and spend hours on prayers. Some attendees gather on a mountain hoping to maximise the efficacy of prayer by praying over various physical objects such as olive oil, visa application, passport and money. Such articles are used as a point of contact with God in the hope that God can bless these items.
On one hand, this Christianity accepts the will of God, on the other there is a strong emphasis on success, winning, getting what is prayed for. Unlike orthodox Catholicism, fasting is not treated as a way to sacrifice your body to God but rather to gain favor from Him such as the power of healing or prophecy. One could question many aspects of this approach to Christianity but there is one area for sure, where these people score points in contrary to many lukewarm in faith westerners: these people commit themselves completely to prayer. Most of them are well aware of the importance of taking care of their spirituality and worshipping God. What might be regarded with a cynical smile by a westerner is here in Ghana treated completely seriously.