The Most Dangerous Thing You Can Do
If we truly get what prayer is--and what it does--we’ll realize it’s one of the most powerful weapons for change we have in our arsenal.
A recent Netflix show I was watching spent an entire episode mocking the “thoughts and prayers” response that public officials often give in response to tragedies. To be honest, I’m sympathetic to the show’s perspective. Often, I find myself thinking that the “thoughts and prayers” response seems like a platitude, just a socially polite way of saying, “I’m sorry this happened, but I’m not going to do anything about it.”
This is the mentality that James 2 addresses–and we’re told that this sort of “faith” is worthless.
But the real problem isn’t prayer.
Throughout the Bible, Scripture tells us pray continuously, to offer everything to God in prayer, to pray for the sick, the persecuted, our enemies, and for God’s Kingdom to come. In other words, the problem with “thoughts and prayers” lies in the fact that the response isn’t thoughtful enough about what prayer actually is.
If we truly get what prayer is–and what it does–we’ll realize it’s one of the most powerful weapons for change we have in our arsenal.
PRAYER CHANGES OUR WORLD
Throughout the Old and New Testament, we see the power of prayer, but nowhere are these examples more clear than in the life of Jesus. When we examine the way Jesus moved through His time on earth, we see Him in constant communication with the Father, doing only what His Father tells Him:
“So Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does'” (John 5:19).
This modeling after the Father bears out in his life. Prayer is the animating force behind so many of Jesus’ miracles. He prays. The Father moves.
A few chapters later, Jesus tells us in John 14 that we will do even greater things than he has done! Not because we’re more powerful than Jesus, but because we have access to the same Father in Heaven. The problem with “thoughts and prayers” theology is that, in many cases, it lacks an intimate connection to the one true God, who is actively at work bringing His Kingdom to this earth.
Through Jesus’ miracles, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and hope was brought to the hopeless. Do we believe God is still in the business of rescuing, healing, redeeming and restoring today? Do you believe your prayers can actually bring change in this world?
PRAYER CHANGES OUR PERSPECTIVE
Prayer also changes how we see the world around us, shifting us out of our way of thinking and into God’s: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done.” We pray for God’s Kingdom–not ours–to come. “God, rather than my kingdom on this earth being established, would you bring yours instead?”
When we pray, we connect with the heartbeat of God; our hearts break for the things that break His heart. Even as we pray, we find our point of view changing. Our enemies are loved by God. Disasters can bring hope. Our politics might shift through prayer. The way we see a group of people could be fundamentally altered.
PRAYER CHANGES OUR ACTIONS
Ultimately, prayer changes what we do. We cannot truthfully come before God, see things from His perspective, have our hearts broken for what He cares about, and then not act. When prayer changes and shapes our hearts, we can’t help but behave differently in our lives. Our hearts inform our prayers, which motivate our actions.
And that’s why a “thoughts and prayers” response feels empty to many people. They don’t see the words leading to a change of action. Of course, a Christian perspective on prayer negates that stereotype because prayer is, essentially, action. Not only does prayer change what’s happening “out there,” it also changes what’s happening inside us.
Open Doors Founder Brother Andrew says it so well: “Our prayers can go where we cannot … there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.”