As were all of you, I was horrified to awaken to the news of the ‘deadliest mass murder in US history.’ We were shocked and we grieved. Then we became angry as those who, ‘never let a serious crisis go to waste’ began the politicization of tragedy. Of course, many of us also prayed. Our thoughts and prayers went out to those affected (one of whom is the granddaughter of one of our own who hid under a table during the rain of gunfire).
With so many thoughts swirling through my mind, and so many arguments being presented, I didn’t know where to begin. But then, a national late-night talk show host said this, “your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient.” There it was, the tired argument that often surfaces after a tragedy, just framed with different words. It’s as if to say, “where is your God?”
This argument is not new, David wrote in the 42nd Psalm, “As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” This argument is offered as proof from unbelievers that God is feckless at best and nonexistent at worst. That the wisdom of man is superior to that of God.
“Your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient”
The pure arrogance of this statement. How did he come to that conclusion? Does he have the mind of God? Can this comedian declare the end from the beginning [Isa 46:10]? How did his thoughts become worthier than those of the Almighty?
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:9]
Prayer is essential
Our God is very clear on this matter, He wants us to pray, but He commands us to pray within His revealed will. For many, prayer is nothing more that the rubbing of a magic lamp so the powerful Genie will grant their wishes, this is NOT prayer. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” [James 4:3]
We are to pray…
- According to His will [Matt 6:10; 26:42] which would require us to learn of His will.
- In faith, without wavering, [James 1:6].
- Not to eliminate problems, but for strength to endure them, [Acts 4:29; Eph 6:19].
- For our leaders, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” [1Tim 2:1-8]
- That the word of God may have free course, [2Thess 3:1; Col 4:3]
In a sense, prayer is not enough…
…if not followed up by our own obedience. James wrote, “And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” [James 2:16] We are to act, but what kind, for what purpose? The context of the James passage is not benevolence, though individual benevolence is a command. The main context is SALVATION. Note verse 14, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”
In all the above passages, there is a connection between prayer and the spreading of the Gospel. The enemies of God want the opposite, hence their mocking, “where is thy God?” So often during tragedy, folks begin to ponder their own future [Ecc 7:2]. Now IS THE TIME TO ACT, it’s the time to lead people to the Love of God found in Christ Jesus. Acting as lights of the world, we need to shine that light into this dark world with the truth of God’s word, the truth of salvation and the truth about Heaven.
Why is there so much evil?
I would be remiss if I failed to remind you of the answer. FIRST, there is no such thing as evil if there is no God. Do we call animal behavior of death evil when the roaring lion kills the infant water buffalo? We are more than animals, we have free will, which brings us to the SECOND answer. Free will has been given to us from God. He wants us to love, but with the ability to love, we can also hate. Without free will, choice, we cannot love. From where do wars, murders and fighting arise? They come from our worldly desires…
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” [James 4:1-6]
But James reminds us of the solution…
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” [7-10]
In other words, the answer to evil is turning to God. Isn’t that accomplished through evangelism? “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14]