It is no surprise that we live in a culture that has forgotten God, redefined morality, and suddenly is wondering “what went wrong?”
As a Christian living in the world today, we expect this! Jesus Himself taught that we should expect to see times of tremendous religious persecution.
And, the New Testament is littered with warnings of future hostility toward Christ and His followers.
In the wake of myriad mass shootings such as in Las Vegas last year and as recently as last week in Parkland, Fl., gun-control advocates use these tragedies as a platform to promote a political agenda.
It is their prerogative to do so; however, religious conservatives are often denigrated for their offering of prayers to the families affected by such tragedies.1
One has only to look at their Twitter feed following such an event to see clear examples of this.
So, what I want to do here is to provide some perspective. I am not arguing a political position. While I am pro Second Amendment, I am not blind to the need for reasonable gun-control legislation.
I think criminals will do what criminals do, no matter what the laws are. If laws truly stopped crime, we would live in a different world than the one we do.
That said, there are three questions we must ask if we’re to know whether our thoughts and prayers will cut it following a time of senseless and seemingly preventable tragedy:
1. Who is God?
Perhaps the most tragic testament to the state of our culture today is the complete lack of understanding about who God is.
He is not the big man upstairs; He is not akin to the likes of Odin and Zeus; He is not a deistic god–one who sets the universe in motion and watches it dwindle away senselessly and untouched throughout eons of deep time; He is not the universe itself, as the pantheist would ultimately propose.
To borrow the prose of the late Christian philosopher and apologist Francis Schaeffer, “He is the God who is there…and He is not silent.”
I have neither the time or space to offer an apologetic for the existence of God in this short blog post, but assume with me for a moment that I am telling the absolute truth. Assume with me that Jesus was who He said He was. Assume with me further that Bible is the only accurate record of the distant past, the troublesome yet remarkable present, and the coming future.
This is the very God who claimed to be “before all things,” and by whom “all things consist” (Colossians 1:17). This is the God who said “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending…which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
This is the God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This is the God who “is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
And then, this same God is the One who said to “be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). This is the God who said “if ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
He said to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He said “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9). This God comforted His prophet Jeremiah with these words, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
This is the God whom the Apostle Peter said to cast “all your care upon…for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
We’re talking about the God by whose very Word “the worlds were framed…so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3).
And finally, we’re talking about the God who promised, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Man’s laws are imperfect, but “the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalms 19:7).
This is the God whom we pray to. Family going through a tragedy right now, this is the God whom we spend hours upon hours crying out to on your behalf. Individual who stands in need of a miracle, this God–the one who is responsible for the very air your breathe–is the God whom we know personally and have a direct line of communication to.
So if you don’t want to pray, that’s your right. If you’d like stricter gun laws, that’s your prerogative for which to lobby.
But we Christians stand with the Psalmist who said, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
2. What is Prayer?
Prayer is not wishful thinking.
Prayer is not mindfulness meditation.
Prayer is not a shot in the dark.
Prayer is not a last resort.
Prayer is not a confession booth.
Prayer is not foolish uttering and vain babbling.
Prayer is the first line of defense.
Prayer is a personal conversation with a thrice-holy God.
Prayer is a plea to the God who created the universe to act in it supernaturally just once more.
Prayer is a call to repentance.
Prayer is begging God to spare a nation and a people from His wrath.
Prayer is trusting God to answer either yes, no, or later.
Prayer is pleading with God to save us from our sin, and ourselves.
Prayer is asking God to heal bodies, hearts, and minds when it seems utterly impossible.
Prayer is a desperate plea for a lost world to turn their hearts back toward God.
Prayer is knowing that miracles happen and begging for another one.
Prayer is begging for God–who has demonstrated His power–to put an end to the senselessness; not congress, who have demonstrated their inferiority and inability to protect our land and its people with their sinful propensities.
3. Does it Really Make a Difference?
The Bible teaches that men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
Ultimately, sin plagues our world. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that we were “dead in trespasses and sins” until God made us alive.
Sometimes, God acts here and now. He makes things right and does it before our very eyes. Sometimes, though, it seems the worst of worst thrive while those who live in constant fellowship with God barely survive.
When will it end, we ask? When will God make good on His promise to “with righteousness…judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and…smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips…slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:6)?
The truth is that “of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven” (Matthew 24:36). Indeed–this knowledge is reserved for the Father alone.
So, what to do until then? Does prayer make a difference?
It has made a difference in my life. It has made a difference in the life of every believer I have ever personally known. It has made a difference, I would argue, in the life of every person who has ever fully placed their trust in the Lord Jesus.
You may not have any respect for prayer or for those who pray. Have you ever considered the problem is with you? If you don’t believe prayer works, then you simply don’t know God. You might not want to know Him.
This would not be news to Him.
Romans 1 teaches that upon your willful rejection of what can be “clearly seen,” and “understood by the things that are made,” you are “without excuse” on Judgment Day.
Perhaps because you’ve “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator,” God gave you over “to a reprobate mind.”
I hope this hasn’t happened to you.
God is a God of love, of course. In fact, God Himself is love. There is no standard of love without Him. But He is also a God of power, of judgment, and of righteousness. He does not look upon sin with approval (Habakkuk 1:13).
When you really begin to realize just who God is, everything changes. Here’s the thing: I don’t know your name, but He does. He loves you. He wants nothing more than to spend forever in eternity with you (see 2 Peter 3:9).
I know this isn’t easy; our secular culture has made “faith” intimidating. It need not be. You exercise faith every day. The only question is, do you place your faith in time and chance, or an eternal God?
Do you have faith that the best-proved laws of science such as those of thermodynamics and biogenesis were violated just once in the beginning of the universe? Do you really have faith that matter has the ability to create itself? If you do–fine. But realize those are faith choices.
If you want evidence for God, you’ll find it everywhere you look–in the largest heavenly body, in the smallest and simplest cell, and even in the laughter of your own children.
Prayer works. God is who He says He is. “He is there…and He is not silent.”
Political legislation cannot accomplish the heart change required to stop producing teens that are mass-murderers. But God can. So I, for one, will keep offering my thoughts and prayers–for peace in the hearts of those family members affected by senseless tragedies, and for my nation to turn its heart back to the Lord.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!
- In full disclosure, this is usually done because many who offer “thoughts and prayers” are politicians who receive campaign funding from the NRA. I have no problem with this, but the purpose of this article is not to comment on whether or not politicians contradict themselves. I think the answer to that question is obvious–red or blue loyalties notwithstanding.