Of Course Your Prayers Are Useless

I was sitting in the airport in Haiti when I found out about the Texas church shooting. The man across from me was reading a book while his girlfriend looked at her phone. When the news alert went off on her phone she told her boyfriend. His frustration over the news was evident. His basic response was this: “Don’t tell me anymore. I need to process it.”

If only everyone in our country could react that way.

But instead, we have to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, regardless of how insensitive or wrong it may be. It’s our new pastime. We argue about gun control. We wonder which ethnicity or political party the shooter belonged to. We fight each other.

This is most evident in the way that skeptics and progressives mocked the idea of prayer in the wake of the Texas church shooting. It’s common for Christians, and even non-Christians, to offer prayers for the survivors of such a horrific event. Now, it’s just as common for non-believers to ridicule those prayers. One celebrity tweeted, “If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive.” Another said, “The thoughts and prayers were literally shot out of them.” Their point was clear. Prayer doesn’t work.

In a sense, they’re right.

Those unfamiliar with what the Bible teaches who still like to pontificate about what the Bible teaches tend to view prayer as a trip to a cosmic ATM. You ask for what you need and wait for it to come. As they see it, the ATM never works. Something better is needed. In this case, that better something is government action. Never mind the fact that it was the government dropping the ball that helped to make this tragedy possible.

Prayer doesn’t work the way that the world thinks it does. In reality, none of us knows how to pray as we should (Romans 8:26). But for those who are in Christ, the Spirit makes up for those shortcomings while the Son prays on their behalf (Romans 8:34). James 5:16 goes further in saying that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. This verse requires a closer look.

It is not the prayer of a well-meaning person or a passionate person or a religious person but a righteous person that is powerful. No man, regardless of how sincere, is righteous on his own. Human righteousness comes only through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). This points us to another way to understand the effective, powerful prayer of a righteous man. Ultimately, Christ is that Righteous Man. He prays on behalf of his people. So in a very real sense, without Christ prayer really is useless.

Without Christ we pray for selfish reasons (James 4:3). Regardless of popular opinion, we are not all God’s children. Without Christ, we are his enemies (Ephesians 2:1-4). Only those who have put their trust in the risen Christ as their Forgiver, Lord, and Savior are children of God. God can answer any prayer he wants to but like the father in a store filled with screaming toddlers, he tends to fix his response on the cries of his own children.

Tragedies have a way of revealing the object of our worship. And make no mistake, we all worship something. Whatever you put your hope in is the place where you run to when the unthinkable happens. The reason why so many run immediately to political causes and Twitter rants is because that is their god. It is their only hope. And it is a terribly inadequate hope.

Frank Pomeroy runs to a different place. He’s the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the site of Sunday’s shooting. He wasn’t there when the unthinkable happened but his 14-year-old daughter was and she was among the casualties. Frank doesn’t have all the answers but he trusts that God does. He told the bank of microphones before him at Monday’s press conference to, “lean into the Lord” and later, “everything is in Christ.”

 

Government action has it’s place and I guess there’s a time for angry tweets but neither offer any hope. I can assure you that the victim’s of Sunday’s tragedy found no comfort in the angry tweets of Will Wheaton and Keith Olberman. True hope can only be found in knowing that God is in complete control of all things, that he loves you and that you have access to him through prayer.

But this hope is impossible to realize apart from Christ.

Frank Pomeroy is right.

Everything is in Christ.

Because without Christ, our prayers are as useless as a celebrity’s angry tweet.

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I Really Need You To Pray For This Woman That I Know

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I usually don’t devote this space to prayer requests but this is an urgent matter. I really need you to pray for this woman that I know.

I’ve known her my entire life. Although she’s a good bit older than me, she’s still beautiful. But right now she’s hurting.

She’s in a strong marriage but it’s like she keeps forgetting her vows. She repeatedly forsakes her husband in favor of lesser men. Men who do not care for her. Men who only wish to use her for their own pleasure and advancement. Repeatedly, they abandon her once they are done. Each time, I think she’s learned her lesson. Each time, I’m wrong. She keeps going back to what she knows is destroying her.

It wasn’t always this way. Early on, she lived her life with purpose. She helped others. She loved others. Part of what drew so many people to her was the way that she refused to blend in. She was so different. But that’s changing. Now, she’s becoming like everyone else. And I’m afraid of what it’s doing to her.

Have you ever seen mug shots of a meth addict? Usually in the first arrest picture, the person looks normal, healthy and even attractive. After ten or twenty arrests, it’s like you’re looking at a completely different person. Teeth that were once white are now gone. Strong facial features are now covered with blotches and bruises. It’s really sad to see. Well, that’s sort of like my friend. I don’t have any mug shots to prove it to you and she’s not on meth but she’s changed. You might say that the years haven’t been kind to her.

The lady who once spoke up for those who have no voice now shouts them down.

The lady who built her reputation on moving toward the hurting now seems to do everything she can to shelter herself from them.

There was a time when this lady was ridiculed by the world for being so different. Her holiness was seen as offensive to a dark world. Now even that same dark world blushes at her embrace of evil.

She used to love the truth. She loved to hear it. She loved to make it known. Now she questions the very concept. She has traded in what is right for what works. Or even worse, for what is popular.

Now, just like the people in those mug shots, you can’t hardly recognize her anymore.

And it’s breaking my heart. I hate to see her like this. She never was perfect but there was a time when she was much better than this. I’m really worried. So that’s why I’m using this space to ask you to pray. It’s all I know to do.

There have been interventions, bold confrontations, threats, close calls and all of that. None of it seems to work for more than a short time.

So I’ve decided to do a better job of praying for her and I would really appreciate it if you would join with me. In the end, I know that she’ll make it through okay. Sometimes that’s hard to believe but I still believe it. But along the way, I worry about the ones who will be led astray by her. The very ones she was supposed to be helping. That really bothers me.

So if you get a chance today, pray for my friend.

My hurting, misguided, nearly unrecognizable friend.

By now, I’m sure you’d like to know what name to call her as you lift her up in prayer.

The Church.

Please pray for the Church.

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 (ESV)

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