If you are an American, you have a target on your back. That is not a threat, it is a new realization that we are not safe. There are other countries who hate us, and terrorist groups that would love to take us out. Sadly, it’s become commonplace to hear of school shootings and mass murders by mentally ill people (clearly) and then the rest of us are just left to deal with the aftermath. But what does that really look like?
Just a week ago, this happened.
“Christina Grimmie, the American singer best known for starring on The Voice, was shot and killed after a concert in Florida on Friday night. Police said her killer appeared to be a deranged fan who had travelled to the venue in Orlando from another city planning to kill her.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/11/voice-star-christina-grimmie-dies-after-shooting-at-florida-conc/).
Though this wasn’t a terrorist attack, it was a case of a fan who became obsessive, to the point of having surgery to look like someone she might date, and then he believed they were getting married. Somewhere a switch flipped, he got his hands on a gun and shot her in the face. This is not normal, people. I don’t care how many news reports we read, this is not a situation where we should go, “Oh geez, another crazy fan…”. Tell that to the brother that tackled him and the family/friends/fans who are left to wonder how something like this could happen.
Then during the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, a gunman goes into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando (same city) and using a semiautomatic rifle, takes out almost 50 people with bullets, and was known to struggle with his sexuality and faith beliefs. I’m sorry, but this is another case of mental illness at its worst. There are thousands of families who are dealing with the aftermath of someone who took a permanent route to a temporary emotion.
I’m not a political writer, and I don’t even know exactly where I stand on the gun issue. It’s still something I’m getting information on. I see/hear pros/cons for both sides. Growing up in a nation where rights and freedoms were freely given compared to other nations that had none, it’s easy to see that everyone should be able to do what they want to do. However, that is why we are now at the place we are in. At some point, what one person wants may conflict with what someone else wants. Who is right? What is our compass? How do we know which direction to turn?
Earlier this week, a friend of mine asked his Facebook community for some silent prayers. Many people were quick to reply that they had prayed, were praying or would pray. We do that so quickly because we want our friends to know that we stand beside them. Who wants to feel alone in the midst of stress/tragedy/loss/whatever it is they’re going through?
Then a few days later, the same friend posted a video from Samantha Bee and her almost eight-minute late night rant against guns and the issues with them. He stated how he was in love with this woman because of her views. I’m including it here, and be advised of strong language, but many valid points.
I do agree with many of her points. We are allowed to be frustrated with the deaths caused by guns in this nation, and I fully applaud her justified anger. I don’t disagree with much of what she has to say. There have to be changes made, somehow, someway.
What I take issue with, and I want to be clear, is her thinking about prayer. And as a believer who practices prayer, I’m allowed to speak on the subject.
Around 4:40, she makes mention that the governor of Florida should comment on what could be done to prevent this from happening in the future. The screen shifts to CNN interviewing Governor Rick Scott from Florida, who becomes evasive with no set plan. Samantha Bee wants to see something done (as we all do), but she gets further upset at 5:40 when CNN gets the governor on the phone and asks the same question, and his response is to “pray, pray for the victims, pray for their families, pray that this never happens again.”
Her comment about prayer being an act of “sit[ting] quietly in a room with your eyes closed, talking to nobody” struck a nerve. I agree with her James 2:17 reference as faith without works IS DEAD, but don’t count out prayer.
What the world doesn’t realize is that prayer: something Jesus practiced, talked about, modeled and taught us, is a means for intercession with our holy GOD. Prayer is NOT talking to nobody (and I meant that to be a double negative). There is our Heavenly Father on the other end of that connection. He is available 24/7, and listens to prayers/needs/selfishness/whining/complaining/etc. AND HE NEVER COMPLAINS in return. To say that we’re talking to ourselves is a slap in His face. He listens to believers AND UNBELIEVERS who love/praise/question/reject/spit in his face/accuse/argue/judge Him and HE STILL LOVES. Because that is who HE is.
In no way, shape or form was the governor saying we should just sit in a room with our eyes closed, talking to nobody. He was saying that we should be going to the Lord with our requests, which is something we are to do in the face of adversity, trial, fear, lack of hope, distrust, hate, anger, and judgement. Prayer affects much, as James 5:13-20 states, ”
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
We are quick to say that the Lord isn’t hearing us when He’s not responding quickly enough, or when things aren’t going the way we want them to. I agree that it’s hard to sit and wait for Him to come through, or not, due to His will. But I know He hears us. He tells us to come to Him. In Philippians 4:6-7, we are taught to not be anxious, but to present our requests to God.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Hope of the World, Jesus, gives peace like none other. It does transcend all understanding and it provides safety and security. It’s funny how even as we shout for gun control and better policies, what we’re really asking for is some security and safety. That can only be provided by our Lord. We are unsafe. We live in a nation that is under attack, and these are only the birth pains. Other countries have come to live with terrorism, hate crimes, mass murders and executions as day to day activities.
Prayer does something to us. To the outside world, we’re putting our heads down and talking to ourselves. But to the Lord, we are in a position of surrender, sharing our hearts with Him in connection, for the purpose of understanding Him, His ways, and His intentions. We are meant to be connected to Him.
This article by NPR suggests that we are changed by doing so.
Scientists are making the first attempts to understand spiritual experience — and what happens in the brainsand bodies of people who believe they connect with the divine.
The field is called “neurotheology,” and although it is new, it’s drawing prominent researchers in the U.S. and Canada. Scientists have found that the brains of people who spend untold hours in prayer and meditation are different.
There is a scientific and spiritual connection that happens in the act of prayer. God designed us that way, and it is because of His grace that He allows us to come to Him. Prayer is also designed as a way of communication for nation leaders to go to God for direction, His wisdom and insight when making decisions that affect that nations’ population. King Solomon, King David, King Hezekiah all prayed. They had a relationship with the Father, and knew to go to Him during times of trials and hardships.
And likewise, it is our duty to do the same.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
When our country seems divided by opinions, beliefs and trials, we ALL can go to the same God to ask what He desires of us, how He wants us to live, how we can love others for His name, what we can do about gun control, how we can respond in the face of fear. Prayer is not hiding out, nor is it talking to the walls. It is having a two-way conversation with the One who created us to have a relationships with Him, and presenting our requests, fears, hurts, anger, complaints, etc. It is also complete TRUST that He hears us, loves us, has the answers, and will implement them in His time. We are to follow Him and be obedient.
By praying for our leaders, who’s to say that we’ve not changed a heart that was malicious, to be soft and follow the word of the Lord? Who’s to say we’ve not stopped wars or ended a conflict before it escalated? Only God knows the outcomes that have changed as a result of His people going to Him. Prayer affects much. It is not in our power that things change, but that the Lord moves.
In my devotion this morning, I read the following sentence, “Jesus did not come to this world to make us better. He came to make us NEW.” We are awful. Humans have ultimate selfishness and hateful hearts at our core. You may deny it, but without Jesus, you are going to look out for your own agenda, and do whatever it takes to make it happen. The truth is that none of us can do ANYTHING apart from Him. We can build our mountains to ourselves and worship US because we are capable of much, but the truth is that everything comes from God.
“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” Romans 11:36
We don’t need to be changed. We need to die. Die to ourselves and our agendas that conflict with the Lord’s agenda. In our promotion for Man, we have squashed the Holy Spirit, but according to the Bible, our world is doing exactly as predicted over 2000 years ago. We are living in the times of distrust, corruption, godlessness, and we are in need of a Savior who can save us from all of it.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from Heaven and died on Earth, carrying the sins of every person, so that we could be reunited with the Father, and have eternal life.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
God is capable of sharing with our leaders the knowledge and wisdom they need to effectively lead us. Whether they adhere and implement is between them and God, but situations have changed as a result of God’s people going to Him in prayer. I encourage you to “sit quietly in a room” and talk with your Father. Policies and laws will come later and will benefit those who they are meant for.
Don’t count out prayer. It is vital for the good of all of us.
One thought on “Hope in the wake of tragedy”
Great point, Grace. Prayer is a two-way street. Yes, God does respond – often by changing us. Only then will we know the right thing to do.