In the wake of the recent tragic deaths and injuries in Paris, Colorado, California and other locations, there appears to be a consensus building within a significant segment of the population. Public figures, news articles and blogs outline the outrageous behavior and call for a variety of solutions ranging from simply recognizing the activity as meaningless, to calling for an all-out cease and desist. So what is this alarming behavior that is of such great concern in these critical times? – Prayer!
After the Paris massacre, people from around the world began using #PrayForParis to show their sympathy and support for the people of France. The concept of prayer, however is apparently losing favor with some parts of our culture. French cartoonist and filmmaker Joann Sfar responded to the campaign by saying, “Friends from the whole world thank you for #prayforParis, but we don’t need more religion! Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champaign and Joy!” He then added his own, “#ParisisaboutLife”.
Today, following yesterday’s deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California, the New York Daily News determined that the most important aspect of the story was – you guessed it – prayer. The paper blatantly and proudly fixed the big bold headline of the front page to read “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The associated article contained a tirade on gun control and anger at Republican Presidential candidates who called for prayer but did not call for more laws against guns. This echoed earlier comments made by President Obama – after the Colorado shooting – when he sermonized about prayer made with unclean consciences. The general topic would have been a good one, had it not merely manipulated the religion and faith of millions of Americans to promote a political agenda. I guess separation of church and state is only meant to silence the church about politics, and not politics about the church… Wait wasn’t that the problem with the Church of England? – But I digress…
Like rat poison that contains mostly harmless grain, and only a small amount of lethal ingredients, some of the points made in the various news articles, blogs and speeches contain elements of truth. Faith without works is dead. (James 2) We must be people who do the Word of God and not be simply hearers of God’s Word (James 1:22). I also understand that many people use the expression, “I will pray…” as an excuse to avoid the hard work of the Kingdom.
So then, I concede the point that our lives ought to be about more than just prayer. The problem is, the argument being made by the anti-prayer folk is simply specious and non sequitur. Jesus was a man of prayer but also a man of action. The same could be said of great scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton and George Washington Carver, anti-slavery legislator William Wilberforce, Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others.
I believe that we can have the conversation about the need for change and action without attacking people of faith in the process. Regardless of our political persuasions or our stand on particular issue, we should all agree that as friends and neighbors, we ought to come together to discuss real solutions instead of looking for new ways to attack one another. The old adage, you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.
As for me, I am praying for the people who are impacted by tragedies at home and abroad. It is a sad commentary on how far we have digressed when real live people are trampled on a second time, not by armed militants, but by those seeking political expediency.
Let us come together to show the world that prayer when combined with faithful action really can change things.