There was a crazy development in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting on Wednesday. In the midst of the expected politicization of the tragedy, and the speculation of whether this was yet another terrorist attack, there was an unexpected onslaught on social media of what The Atlanticcalled “prayer shaming.”
Everyone from U.S. congressmen to media pundits and bloggers took to the internet to make bold statements that “prayer is not enough.” They proceeded to suggest that while one side was wasting their time praying, the other was trying to do something about the senseless tragedy of gun violence and mass shootings.
One Connecticut senator posted this on Twitter: “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage.Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again.”
Now let me say that on a couple of sides, I agree with them. For one thing, the now popular and politically correct version of offering prayer–“sending thoughts”–is one of the silliest concepts I have ever heard. I’m not sure what it accomplishes, unless someone believes their “thoughts” somehow impact others telepathically. Let me just say that if I am ever in need, please pray for me, tell me you care even, but don’t bother sending me your thoughts.
These hashtag cries for prayer also ring a little hollow to me when we as a largely secular and prayerless nation so quickly start speaking the language of intercession during times of tragedy, when we surely don’t practice it much the rest of the year. Then, when the tragedy subsides and we get back to business as usual, prayer becomes an afterthought once again.
Likewise, prayer, without action, can sometimes be empty and self-righteous. The book of James tells us clearly that if we come upon someone without clothes or food and say to them, “Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed–i.e. “I’m sending you my thoughts and prayers”–and do nothing to help with the physical need ourselves then our faith is lacking. Faith, without works, is dead.
On the other side, I wonder what these people think the “action” we should take is, other than more gun control. I have no interest in jumping into the political fray of gun control in this space, but it’s obvious that illegal gun use is the least of concerns for those intent on doing such evil acts. And that is the point–whether it’s radical Islamic terrorism, nut-case abortion clinic terrorism, or crazed lunatic in a movie theater terrorism–or whatever next week’s terrorism will look like–the problem is not so much the instrument used to carry out the evil, but the depraved motivations of men’s hearts. And that’s where the real change must take place.
We live in an increasingly secular, intentionally Godless society that has lost its moral and spiritual bearings and is rapidly spiraling into the abyss. We have devalued life, we have mocked faith, we have discredited the Word of God, we have undermined the family, and on an on…and now, as Scripture promises: “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; A man (or nation)reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
And with that, we come full circle. I would submit to you today that our ONLY answer is prayer. Not social media prayer, not hashtag calls to prayer, but followers of Christ on our faces in genuine, fervent, desperate, shameless prayer to God for revival in our land.
“If My people, who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.