Don’t Mock Prayer. Pray
November 10, 2017
While the unspeakable massacre in a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, brought the best out of people there, it triggered the worst in certain others who see everything through their tainted political lenses.
House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted: “Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.”
Leftist screamer Keith Olbermann responded, “Speaker Ryan, bluntly: shove your prayers up your a– AND DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE BESIDES PLATITUDES AND POWER GRABS.”
It wasn’t just Olbermann. Another God hater exclaimed: “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.” Another said: “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of s—.”
Mass shootings invariably enrage militant gun control zealots at Second Amendment supporters, who they see as the repository of evil, and perhaps more responsible for these massacres than the gunmen themselves. I wish I were exaggerating.
Some of my favorite leftist Twitter stalkers ridiculed me for defending Ryan, expressing their contempt for Christians who call for prayer after these tragedies. When challenged, they insist they are mainly outraged that we won’t take “real” action to stop the killings.
But we don’t oppose reasonable restrictions designed to protect society from the evil and the insane — the kind that were already in place but not implemented in the case of the wife-abusing, God-hating perpetrator Devin Patrick Kelley.
Christians don’t use prayer as an excuse for inaction. We don’t believe our petitions to the Almighty relieve us of our duty to do good works. Christian theologian James Montgomery Boice said, “A strong prayer life is not the least bit inconsistent with vigorous and fervent service for the Lord. … Prayer warriors are needed. But this does not mean that those who are active in Christian work (or any kind of work) do not also need to be strong in praying for God’s direction and blessing.”
Truth be told, the critics aren’t wrestling with such philosophical questions, and they aren’t calling for just any action. No. The only actions that will satisfy them are extreme gun control measures, which they wrongly believe will prevent these shootings.
In their anger, they lash out at prayer and God, mainly because they associate prayer with the type of person who blocks their gun-grabbing crusade.
Many have already answered their fallacious gun control arguments, so I want to briefly address their mocking of prayer.
In their tweets, you feel their rage at the God they deny exists. You sense their sneering hostility at the supposed futility of prayer, and their fury regarding their conceited assumption that Christians are only offering their “thoughts and prayers” to dodge the moral imperative of gun control.
Can they really misunderstand us that much? Do they think we believe we’re off the hook if we throw up a few insincere sound bites to the God we actually believe in — and fear (revere and respect)? Heaven help us if that’s what we’re about.
So, why do we pray?
Why would we pray to an omniscient, sovereign God who knows our requests before we think them? Foremost, it’s a matter of obedience. God commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2). Scripture tells us that God listens to our prayers (Psalm 139:1-4; 1 Kings 8:52) and responds to them. James 5:16 reads in part, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In fact, we’ll fail to receive certain things simply by not asking for them (James 4:2).
Besides, prayer is not simply a one-way communication — a series of petitions to an omnipotent God with the expectation that He’ll grant our wishes like a genie from a bottle. In prayer, we are conversing with the God of the universe to whom we have instant access. Yes, we ask God for things, but we also pray to express adoration to Him, to confess our sins, to seek His guidance, to praise Him and to give Him thanks.
But we can’t expect that He will grant every request. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if billions of imperfect people were to have their contradictory prayers answered by an omniscient, omnipotent God? We should remember that we must pray in accordance with God’s will — a will that we can’t always perfectly discern.
Our triune God is relational and models His loving relationship for His church. Accordingly, Christians rightly believe that prayer strengthens the Christian community, and that with prayer there is power in numbers. Few things exhibit the spirit of Christ like congregations of believers lovingly praying for one another.
If you believe prayer is a pointless exercise, perhaps you’ll sober up when you recall that Jesus Christ Himself, God Incarnate, continually prayed to the Father and directed us to do the same.
In fact, at the time of His greatest distress, before His imminent crucifixion, Jesus selflessly prayed for His people. One of the most moving passages of Scripture is the high priestly prayer related in John 17:1-26. In His spiritual agony, Jesus anticipated the Father’s separation and wrath for his substitutionary sacrifice for mankind’s sins; nevertheless, he pleaded with the Father for our joy, and for the Father to protect us from the evil one. He asked that we all be united as one, just as the Father and Son are united as one. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.”
Of course we must pray for those suffering among us. Only God knows precisely what they need. We are encouraged and mutually lifted up by one another’s faith and prayers. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, “I remember you in my prayers at all times … that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
How about a little less pride and cynicism, and a little more faith and prayer as we confront these horrible human and societal evils?