Between Paris, Colorado Springs, and now San Bernardino (not to mention the dozens of other lives lost around the world that didn't fit into the mainstream media's publication agenda), the world has seen much tragedy in the last month.
In all the chaos, the response to these tragedies was almost always the same. Grieving nations and families mourned the lives that were pointlessly cut short. Fingers were pointed every which way trying to place blame, regain a sense of control, and make ourselves feel better about the broken state of our world. And like clockwork, people ramped up their prayers.
But then something unexpected happened. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting, some started to mock, critique, and condemn prayer. Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist highlighted some particularly appalling examples, like these:
But prayer is not useless or inaction, as these examples would have you believe. It is the exact opposite.
1. Prayer is a privilege.
The New York Daily News cover refers to prayer as "meaningless platitudes," but prayer is more than something we say because it sounds nice to say it. Sure, it's easy to tweet a nice message with a trending hashtag, but genuine prayer is a privilege. We are blessed to be able to communicate with a personal God who truly cares about our needs. We can bring Him our requests and He hears us.
"This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." I John 5:14 (NASB)
2. Prayer is an act of obedience.
God wants to hear our prayers; He wants to communicate with us. He wants to be the first person we turn to when something bad happens, when we're feeling down, or when we are experiencing great joy. He cares about every aspect of our lives, so turning to Him in moments like these should be second nature.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
3. Prayer is an act of humility.
Tragedies like those we've recently experienced often remind us of our fragile human nature. No matter how hard we try to control the world or its circumstances, we cannot overcome its fallen, broken state. When we humbly come before God in prayer, we acknowledge Him as Creator of the universe and the One who is firmly in control, even when bad things happen.
" … if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
4. Prayer fulfills a need.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed during a tragedy. Whether it is sorrow, fear, or frustration you feel, prayer is the perfect outlet for your emotions. We can cast all of our cares on Him and He eagerly soothes our hearts and minds.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)
5. Prayer strengthens us.
Living in a fallen world can be mentally, emotionally, and even physically exhausting. But God assures us in His Word that He works all things together for good. When we turn to Him in prayer, He strengthens us with His promises.
"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Isaiah 40:29-31 (NASB)
So no—we won't shut up. We won't stop praying. We can't