I have been taking a little self-imposed break from serious writing because my last piece took a lot our of me emotionally (you can read it here). But it's been one week since the heartbreaking violence at the small Texas church of Sutherland Springs, and I saw an article this week by Don Sweeney with the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that prompted me to respond. Sweeney reports that a backlash is swelling on social media just as it did after the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1st. The object of the resentment? Thoughts and prayers.
It's quite common in this day of, what seems to be, almost constant tragedies for those with a social media account to share concern and pledge "thoughts and prayers" to those affected. Scores have expressed this or similar sentiments in regards to these two events as well as the natural catastrophes of hurricanes and wild fires. But some are vilifying these simple compassionate words. Examples of the retorts include: "To anyone saying 'thoughts and prayers' to the victims...they were in CHURCH. They don't need more prayers. They need gun control." - Mikel Jollett And "Enough with the 'thoughts and prayers already'. The bible teaches us that faith without works is dead. Do something or say nothing." - Joy Reid And "After decades of data, I think we all can conclude the 'thoughts and prayers' method of gun-violence prevention is 0% effective." - Kaivan Shroff
While I agree that telling someone you are thinking of them is little more than a kind sentiment with no ability to change their current situation, prayer belongs in a wholly different category. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." And prayer is one of those weapons. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 18 the Bible commands us to "pray continually...for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Another passage confirms that "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16. At first glance, I might wonder if James 5 disqualifies me from doing prayer battle. How can I, who messes up royally and often, be righteous? Romans chapter 3 explains how: "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (v. 22) "and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (v. 24) There is nothing I can do to be righteous, but God bestows on me the righteousness of Jesus when I put my faith in Him. So even though I sin horribly, my prayers hold weight. If you have put your faith in the all-powerful God and His Son Jesus, yours do too.
Now, please don't hear me say that prayer is the only weapon in a Christian's arsenal. If you feel strongly about certain legislation, then prayerfully lobby our lawmakers. If you possess the skills necessary to render aid and the ability to travel, go. If you have the funds to donate, get online and find a reputable source to funnel through. www.ssfb.net offers suggestions of ways to give directly to their church or its impacted members. But also remember that prayer itself is faith in action.
My prayer for today: "Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless." Psalm 10:12
All scripture passage are from the NIV