Prayer is central to the life of a Christian. It is our direct line to God, a means of growth and connection which anchors our spirit in Christ. Prayer is the first and last line of defense we have in life’s great struggles. Some have even called it, “Hope Personified." Above all, Christians believe our prayers do not go unheard. That God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, does respond, though not always in the way we want or expect.
Faith like this can be difficult to understand, especially in today’s culture, where prayer has taken on such a negative connotation. One prime example occurred recently on twitter when Guardians of the Galaxy star, Chris Pratt, posted an encouraging message of prayer for actor/filmmaker Kevin Smith. Entertainment Weekly reports that after learning Smith had been hospitalized following a massive heart attack, Pratt tweeted his encouragement by writing,
“Kevin we don’t know each other too good but I have loved you since Clerks and I’m praying my a** off for you cause I believe in the healing power of prayer. Can you please pray with me people!?”
In a follow-up message he also wrote,
Praying for you. I will continue to. You inspired me with Clerks when I was a senior HS. I’m tagging my Lb/rb football coach who showed me the movie cause he believed in me and knew I’d be inspired. @hodge1916 🙏♥️🙏 https://t.co/syB7BiQaoY— chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) February 26, 2018
Though the tweet was initially well-received, it soon began to garner backlash from other users who felt “thoughts and prayers” had become a weak and irrelevant response.
“Prayer does nothing.” Wrote one critic, “Only doctors and nurses and how healthy he is will save Smith. Sending him encouragement might boost his mood and aid in the healing process.”
“That's cool and everything but Doctors and nurses save lives not prayer.” Wrote another.
While Pratt didn’t respond to the backlash, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn leapt to his defense and addressed Pratt’s critics by writing,
“So I just read Chris Pratt’s tweet to Kevin Smith saying he would pray for him & made the mistake of reading the comments, many of which go off on Chris for saying he’d pray. I think people misunderstand the backlash against ‘thoughts & prayers,'” Gunn stated. “There is nothing wrong with sending someone positive thoughts & prayers. But when this is coupled with inaction when action will benefit the situation, it’s empty.”
“I’m not tweeting this to defend Chris – he’s a big boy and can take care of himself, but for me, personally, prayer and meditation are great boons to my life and help me navigate my way through this world, and I don’t want to dissuade others who find those things useful.”
For Christians, Gunn’s response is both rewarding and troubling. On one hand, we can feel proud that prayer is being defended by those in a place of influence, even from within Hollywood. Yet, at the same time, we should be concerned that prayers have become so deeply maligned in American culture. In the wake of so many tragedies, it’s now more important than ever for believers to supplement their prayers with action as the Bible commands (James 2:14-26). Now is not the time to embrace cynicism. Christians know prayer has the power to change the world, and we must work to see those prayers realized.