I’m sure that you have, by now, seen the drivel spouted across the web in response to the mass shooting in California, summed up “Stop Praying. Stop Thinking.” Or, as the New York Daily News put it “God Isn’t Fixing This.”
This is, of course, entirely missing the reason why Christians pray, which seems to be par for the course among the press. My friend Steven Dunn has an excellent post regarding why Christians pray: Because “God is fixing us.”
I think headlines like these really do an excellent job of highlighting the different ways in which Christianity and our culture answer the same question: “What is wrong with the world?”
It seems the culture believes what is wrong with us is outside of us. We will be able to fix ourselves. The cultural response of “Legislate!” is really a confession of faith in ourselves that, given enough time, we will eventually end up with a general utopia, which we will survey from the top of a Tower (or space-elevator) that reaches the heavens. Nothing we plan to do is impossible for us.
Conversely, Christians pray precisely because we believe that this issue cannot be fixed by gun-control — or any other attempts to modify external behaviors. We believe that mankind is so bent in on itself that even when the only weapon available is a rock, we can still find a way to bash our neighbor’s head in with it. We know that we can’t just keep treating the symptoms — at some point, that Great Physician must excise the tumor or our cancer will certainly consume us forever.
That is why in Luke 13 when Jesus was confronted with two tragedies He commanded “Repent, or perish!” In response to the question “what is wrong with the world?” G. K. Chesterton well summed up the Christian position: “I am.” The problem with the world is not some distant abstraction of sin, or a lack of progress– it’s the fact that every single day sin is a personal reality for you and (especially) for me.
So it comes down to this: Christians don’t pray as a substitute for action, but because we realize that all of our actions are vain apart from God’s grace and mercy in our lives. We pray because we recognize that, if God had not mercifully intervened, we could easily be the one pulling the trigger. Prayer confesses God’s sovereignty, even when we do not understand it.
Keep praying, Christians.