Prayer Targets: Seeking God in the Day of Trouble; Maryland's Religious Persecution; Boy Scouts; China's Atrocities
August 07, 2019
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
Dear Praying Friends,
The massacres in El Paso and Dayton are unthinkable tragedies for the victims, their families, and America. But they are snapshots of what happens in a nation when the "foundations are destroyed" (Psalm 11:3). Having been built upon biblical morality and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, America has progressively departed from God, removed Him from every sphere of culture, and replaced Him with secularism that leads to death (Pr 14:12). The culture's reaction to faith following an earlier shooting illustrates that even prayer is being mocked in an increasingly secular society. But prayer is definitely part of the answer, and giving God His proper place in our lives and in every sphere of society is essential. Crosswalk's Carrie Dedrick wrote this reflection on thoughts and prayers in 2015:
In the wake of a devastating shooting in San Bernardino, California  that killed 14 people and injured 21, a new term swept the nation: Prayer shaming. Emma Green of The Atlantic coined the term after social media users started rebuking those who offered their "thoughts and prayers" on Facebook and Twitter.
At the same time, the New York Daily News blazed a front-page headline that read, "God Isn't Fixing This," blasting Republican politicians that offered prayers in response to the tragedy. This prayer shaming inspired Tyler Huckabee to write "Do 'Thoughts and Prayers' Do Any Good?"
Huckabee explained why it is a natural response to offer thoughts and prayers in the midst of tragedy. "Whatever else gunmen are able to do, they cannot take away our ability to think and pray," he wrote. "It's comforting for us to be able to offer some little piece of ourselves."
But are the prayers working? Huckabee points out that in the 2015, there were more mass shootings than there were days of the year. The U.S. has the highest margin of mass shootings in the world. Our closest competitor is the Philippines which trails behind by 65 percent.
In a Washington Post editorial, Russell Moore wrote that prayer is not inaction for people of faith. "Prayer is doing something. We do believe that God can intervene, to comfort the hurting and even to energize ourselves and others for right action," he wrote.
Huckabee agrees. "Prayer is not a substitute for action, or even preparation for action. It's something much more fluid and powerful," he writes. "Perhaps it's best to say that prayer and action are at their best when they are in harmony, and if we are serious when we say, 'our prayers are with you,' then our prayers must be in intimate relationship with redemptive work."
Prayer and action together are key to establish change in the future.
Writing for The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter says we should approach praying for events that occur in the news with a strategy. We should start by picking what kind of news we want to specialize in (local, world, business, etc.). It is too much to pray about every aspect of the news.
We should remember to pray for authorities, whose names come up in the news so frequently. Additionally, the journalists who bring us the news should be included in our prayers, as their work is important, but challenging and draining.
Finally, we must avoid focusing all of our attention on the news. Carter writes, "...don't let the news become an idol. Never let the bad news brought by the media supplant your focus on the good news of Jesus."
The Christian response to tragedy with prayer is appropriate. Scripture tells us that, "The earnest prayer of the righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" (James 5:16) ...
As Huckabee writes, "whatever value there might be in telling God how sorry we are about our broken world, there can be little doubt that there's more value in asking Him to give His people a desire to heal it." (Carrie Dedrick, "What Does Prayer Accomplish When Tragedy Strikes?"; See also "Prayer is Not a Worthless Response: What Greg Laurie, Jack Graham, and Franklin Graham Say About the Shootings")
Biblically speaking, when tragedy strikes, the first line of action is prayer! Even if it is a short cry, "God, please help!" "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Ps 50:15; see also: Ps 55:16; 86:7; 91:15; 118:5; and the warning: Prov 1:22-33). America is in deep trouble. Gun control is not the answer! Turning to God as a people is. So is bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4); preaching the whole counsel of God from our pulpits without fear of controversy or rejection (2 Tim 4:1-4); educating our children, high school, and college students from a clear, unequivocal biblical worldview (like the education our Forefathers received); public insistence that leaders in every sphere of cultural influence (churches, families, government, education, entertainment, the media, business -- see brief video by Os Hillman) promote God and righteousness and refrain from practicing or approving anything God declares to be evil (Dt 28: all). It is electing and appointing God-fearing men and women to public office and positions of leadership who possess and demonstrate biblical knowledge and wisdom. It is choosing those who lead clean lives that affirm their profession of faith. Only such will curb the proliferation of evil we are seeing. Taking away people's freedoms and right to self-defense by compromising or abolishing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would only serve to accommodate future tyranny. Ultimately, we must pray, pray, pray (2 Chr 7:14; Is 56:7; 1 Tim 2:1-8). (Tasteful videos and scripts give glimpse into the lives of the victims in El Paso and of the victims in Dayton.)
- Lord, make your mercy and grace known to the individuals, families, and communities of El Paso and Dayton, the victims of these senseless and evil massacres. Lord, only you can give the comfort they need in this dark and difficult hour and the help they need in the days, weeks, and years ahead. Heal the wounded! Salve their spirits, minds, and souls. Draw them to yourself in this moment of desperate sorrow, confusion, and weakness. Grant them the peace only you can give. And help your people aggressively to pray, to consecrate themselves to you, and to labor to see America transformed by turning wholeheartedly to you! Draw us to yourself, who alone can save and heal our land. Guide our leaders, Lord. Do not allow opportunistic and evil politics to make use of this tragedy. Rather, grant our elected leaders repentance to understand that the hatred and anger that they display every day has had its own role in producing division and violence. Grant us repentance, O God! (Ex 32:29; 2 Kgs 21:16; 24:3-4; Is 31:4; 40:1; 64:1; Jonah 3:5; Mt 5:22; Jn 6:44; 14:16; Ro 12:1-2; 2 Cor 12:9)
Evangelical and Governmental Leaders Concur -- The root causes of the El Paso and Dayton massacres have to do with the sickness that lies within the American soul. Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land said: "[G]un control is too simple an answer. It is analogous to putting a Band-Aid on a severed artery." As he notes, these mass shootings are symptoms and eruptions telling us that there is a subterranean river of spiritual and emotional slime running underneath our society. They are problems of the heart and they are problems of the soul: "Fatherlessness, the failure of our inner cities, racism, identity politics ... the mindless glorification of violence in our media and entertainment industry ... the systematic disrespect and mocking of police officers..." He says it's up to Christians and the church to lead the way! Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also lamented the removal of God and biblical values from the public square and called out the video game industry for its impact on the mind of the young man who murdered 22 people at the Walmart in El Paso.
- Lord, while politicians attempt to fix what they cannot fix, let the body of Christ arise to do what must be done: evangelize our communities, speak the truth in love in the public square that will correct godless ideologies that can only make things worse, seek to provide mentors for fatherless boys, and promote the virtues of marriage and intact families. (Eph 4:14-16; 2 Th 3:1-3; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Tim 4:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-16)
Finally, please consider adding these important matters to your prayer list! 1) Continue to pray for the leaders of Maryland's Bethel Christian Academy and their Principal, Claire Dant, who are suing the State of Maryland, which withdrew the school's eligibility for the state's school voucher program on the grounds that Bethel's biblical views on marriage and sexuality amount to unacceptable "discrimination." Moreover, the state is demanding that the school repay over $100,000 from voucher funding it received last year. It is the needy students who lose. Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Bethel in their legal action; 2) A new lawsuit all eges that the Boy Scouts of America failed to stop hundreds of previously unreported sexual predators; 3) Former D.C. area megachurch pastor Josh Harris shocked followers by announcing that he and his wife, Shannon, were divorcing and that he no longer considers himself to be a Christian. The Christian Post now reports that Harris has posted Instagram photos displaying his participation in an LGBT pride parade in British Columbia. Pray for young adults across America influenced by his books, who are now shaken over his sad apostasy; 4) Will Congress address China's atrocities against religious minorities (including the harvesting of organs from involuntary donors who are prisoners)? V.P. Mike Pence has signaled the administration's willingness to use sanctions against China; 5) Turkish President Erdogan threatens to launch a military assault against U.S.-allied Kurdish troops in Northeast Syria, the one region of Syria where religious liberty is practiced and guarded. The Kurds and Americans played a key role in eliminating ISIS from the region. Syrian Christians are appealing to the U.S. for help, posing a predicament for the Pentagon.
Only God can reverse the trends we are seeing in our beloved nation. Thank you for praying!