The last few days have been filled with tragedies – Hurricane Dorian bringing massive destruction and claiming at least five lives in the Bahamas; seven people shot dead and 22 wounded by a gunman in Texas; 34 people killed in a boat fire off the California coast; seven people killed and 34 wounded in several shootings in Chicago.
“Thoughts and prayers” has been a comment frequently tweeted and spoken by Americans shocked and saddened by these horrific events. In fact, it’s something millions of us say when tragedy strikes.
Some would criticize people of faith when we offer our thoughts and especially our prayers at times like these. They instead say we should do something – as if praying was useless and just a waste of time.
Certainly, our response to tragedies can’t be limited to only thoughts and prayers and nothing else. But those of us who pray know that prayer is important, in addition to taking other actions. I know this personally from my own very sad experience.
Our son Christopher was killed in a tragic automobile accident 11 years ago. My world as I knew it seemed to end. But suddenly, I was surrounded by people praying for me and for my wife Cathe.
We were made aware of thousands of prayers directed toward heaven on behalf of our family, many of them posted on social media. And so many kindhearted people helped us and our son’s widow, Brittany, in other ways as well.
No, it did not take the terrible pain of losing our son for us to realize the power of prayer, but it buoyed us above the raging waters of grief and helped us to make it through another day.
People who sneer at the idea of praying do not understand the power of prayer and more importantly the power of the one we are praying to – God Himself. But the fact is, as important as it is, we don’t just pray. We are always “doing something” in addition to praying.
I have found that people of faith are at the forefront of doing many things in addition to praying whenever a crisis hits. You will often see church vans filled with supplies like food and drinking water arriving on the scene of a hurricane or tornado before help from the government has arrived. People of faith donate their time and money generously to those in need.
You see organizations founded or led by people who believe in prayer, such as the two my friend Franklin Graham leads. These are Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization, providing whatever relief is necessary – including food, rebuilding homes. and sending in chaplains to provide counseling and assurance in places where tragedy has hit.
This life is hard. And bad things happen to good people. We know this well. And we know there is an afterlife and that dramatically affects what we do in this life.
As C.S. Lewis once said: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”
So, “thoughts and prayers” have their place – now and for all time.
Now, if we flippantly say we will pray and not do so, that is of no value. But if we really pray it can change circumstances, and it can change us.
In the Bible, the Prophet Daniel prayed and he was freed from a den of lions. In the gospels, a man with a sick child called out to Jesus, and his little one was healed.
Prayer matters and prayers change things.
What is prayer?
Prayer is talking to God. For Christians, this is a privilege given to us through our relationship with the Father through his son Jesus. People of other faiths pray in different ways. And God loves to hear our prayers.
The Lord Himself says: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NASB)
So, yes, offer your thoughts but more importantly your prayers for those who are hurting today. And if you are having a relatively problem-free day remember to shoot up a prayer of thanks to God.
It’s important that we remember that our lives are a gift from God. Everything we have comes from Him as well.
The Bible says: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6)
We live in such a scary time, with so many things that frighten us and give us deep anxiety.
But God can give us that supernatural peace and strength to go on another day.