When a tragedy happens, most look for ways to support and help. When it’s a friend or family member, you might bring a meal or send flowers or write a thoughtful note. But when the tragedy is outside of your normal sphere, it’s a little harder. What do you do? You empathize with the pain. You are outraged at the injustice. But what are you to do?
Lately many turn to social media, they post their thoughts or share someone else’s. Others change their profile pic to an image or overlay that conveys support. But similar to the ribbons we used to tie on our fences or colorful arm bands we wore in support of a cause, these means of support don’t actually do a whole lot to affect change. They might emotionally help us cope with something outside of our control but they don’t do a whole lot more than show support and make us feel better.
And, there are some that view prayer that way. That offering to pray or gathering together to pray in the event of a tragedy is just a way to help oneself cope but not actually an effective means of dealing with the reality of pain and loss in any given situation.
One of my Facebook friends recently posted:
“I understand there’s a need for prayer and as a Christian I know that; however I’m also the Christian that believes these senseless acts need to be prevented. I’m tired of praying for things that never needed to happen in the first place… people need to stand up for righteousness, protect those being bullied and mistreated… stop being so afraid to take action for those in need. Prayers are great for the aftermath but c’mon people we need to get brave now not later… stop it not mourn it… stand up before we have to kneel… come on!!! End the nonsense!!!! Stop getting up to go to church to pray… get up and go somewhere you can help make a difference in the problem in the first place! Seriously wake up nation!!!!”
Granted, this is an emotional time for all of us and my friend was venting her frustration, but this post has haunted me for days. And, here’s why… This post reflects such a low view of prayer and an ignorance of the effect that prayer has on the heart of God. Turning to prayer in times of tragedy, turmoil or pain is THE most powerful option we have.
I can only speak for myself but after a week like last week my heart ached so bad. It felt like all our effort as the Church of Jesus is for nothing and injustice is winning. The only thing I knew to do is cry out in anguish. And that’s the most powerful thing I could have done. It’s not a weakness. It’s not a cop-out. In fact, we would not have most of the Psalms or writings of the prophets if heart cries weren’t effective and powerful means of prayer.
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:1-4)
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall. (Psalm 13:1-4)
Laments touch the heart of God! Just like he heard David’s and Habakkuk’s, he hears our cries!
He hears the cry of the broken. W. Vernon Higham writes,
“If we truly believe that our triune God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit – will hear the slightest little cry of ‘Lord, please grant revival,’ we will begin to be heard according to our faith. I can well imagine heaven’s exclamation, ‘Behold, they are praying! At last, instead of just talking to one another in a prayer meeting or displaying their doctrines, they are actually praying!’ They are beginning to pull… on the ropes of the promises, that is, to begin to draw upon the cords of grace as if they were the bells of a church tolling in heaven, ringing out the promises of God. Such praying will finally, respectfully, demand the attention of the Almighty, leaving Him with no alternative other than to look down and grant the requests.” (The Turn of the Tide, pp. 63-64).
He will hear our heart cries. We will see mountains start to move. And, it’s amazing how those moments of vulnerably, pain and emotion in His Presence, not only bring about victory in the heavenly realms, but they also give us strength to pick up and move forward to continue partnering with Him in advancing His Kingdom.
So let’s get a heart cry for God’s purposes in our lives and in the world around us and let’s see Him to amazing things in our midst.