In response to the mass shooting in the Texas church this Sunday that killed 26 people, many Americans are questioning the efficacy of prayer. If praying actually worked, wouldn’t the churchgoers still be alive?
In an article at Fox News, Jeremy Hunt cites a number of tweets about the shooting that have recently appeared on his Twitter feed. Coming from a number of gun control advocates, many of these tweets imply that prayers didn’t do the victims any good. As a result, they say, our response to the shooting should not be to pray for the hurting congregation but to make stricter gun control laws.
One of these tweets reads, “If prayers were the answer [to] gun violence wouldn’t people at a church service be safe? Please make gun laws.” Another tweeter said, “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive.”
This and similar comments display a fundamentally skewed understanding of what prayer is and what it does. They speak of prayer as if it has power inherent in itself—that it functions for the sole purpose of summoning certain results, as rubbing a lamp is said to summon a genie.
Prayer, however, has nothing to do with controlling events or bending God’s will to ours. Rather, as Robert Velarde writes at Focus on the Family, it is first and foremost an act of obedience to God and a means of communicating with Him. And, rather than acting as a way to make God fulfill our wishes, prayer allows Christians to take part in “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
In fact, just as gun laws aren’t the ultimate answer to this sort of violence—if by “answer” we mean “solution”—prayers themselves also are not the answer. Saving power is not in the prayer or the praying person but in the recipient of the prayer: the triune God of the Bible. Thanks be to the saving work of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Spirit, this God is the one and only effective “answer” or “solution” to the evil we see in the human race. He alone can turn people’s hearts from evil and erase the scars left by earthly suffering.
So let’s not turn to prayer as a “solution” to evil. Rather, in prayer, let us turn to Christ as the victor over evil and the comforter of the afflicted. Even though we cannot control events and are often blind to the battles raging in the spiritual realm, God our Savior sees and is sovereign over all.
Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for BreakPoint.org, ChristianAnswers.net/Spotlight, and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at aworldofgrasspeople.blogspot.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/stevanovicigor
Publication date: November 7, 2017