On Prayer Shaming: A Call to Prayer and Action

I must confess that even as a Christian, the “prayer-shaming” of the New York Daily News, summarized in its “God isn’t fixing this” headline, strikes a chord within me. It strikes a chord because too many politicians do use the “thoughts and prayers” line as a cop-out. Too many average citizens use the “thoughts and prayers” line as a cop-out. It frustrates me when I look through my Twitter feed and see countless numbers of obviously unbelieving people sending “prayers out” to victims and their families. It also frustrates me when I know that, as the liberal media has said in the past 24 hours, Republican politicians are tweeting about prayer, but aren’t doing everything in their power to try and make change happen.

As Christians, we believe that prayer works. God hears the prayers of his people and he responds with love. God is not, as some have claimed, an emotionless God. Throughout the Scriptures he is moved to sadness, anger, joy, and gladness. We know that he is angry with those who commit these heinous crimes and that he is sad alongside those who have lost loved ones. We also know that a day of judgment and of redemption is coming. He will act. He will move. He will punish evildoers and bring redemption and reconciliation for his people. This is the God to whom we pray, and this is why we pray.

But we don’t only pray. What if Martin Luther King Jr. had only prayed for equality? What if Martin Luther had only prayed for a Reformation? What if Mother Teresa had only prayed for the poor and sick in Calcutta? What if Dietrich Bonhoeffer had only prayed for an end to Hitler’s murderous regime? What if William Wilberforce had only prayed for an end to the slavetrade? What if Esther and Mordecai had only prayed for deliverance for the Jews? What if Jesus had only prayed for our salvation?

As Mordecai told Esther, “if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.” Indeed, if God is for us, who can be against us? No one can snatch God’s people out of his hands. He is sovereign over all. But Mordecai didn’t stop there, and neither do we. For “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Who knows whether we have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

My plea to our “thoughts and prayers” tweeting politicians: Who knows whether you have not come to power in this nation for such a time as this?

I don’t want to pretend the issues aren’t difficult and nuanced. They certainly are. Immigration reform, protection of our borders, ISIS, gun control, Planned Parenthood: all of these are complicated issues with no simple answers. But look around you. Injustice and pain and evil are everywhere. God created us to be moral beings. We either recognize immorality and evil around us, or we suppress it. Let’s not suppress it. Let’s do something. Let’s pray; please, please, let’s pray. We can never abandon prayer, for only God has the power to enact change, and only he will one day enact full and eternal change. But let’s also act.

Just as Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” pressed on and accomplished his mission, let us press on and accomplish ours. (Hebrews 12:2)

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