Every time there is shooting we hear the following phrase, “thoughts and prayers.” Every time that phrase is uttered there are others who say, “thoughts and prayers are useless.”
I am tired of both. I am tired of seeing the religious among us continually saying, “I’m praying” but doing nothing. I am tired of the non-religious among us shaming or mocking the religious for their prayer.
When a religious person says that they are praying, they believe with their whole being that this is doing something. When I pray, I believe that God will act. I think that God responds to our prayer. If I say to you, “I am praying.” What I am saying is that I am imploring the Creator, Covenantal God to act on your behalf. I think and feel that this action is the beginning and foundation of what is required to bring about real change.
“I am praying,” means that I know the problem is bigger than me. It means that I can not fix it in my own strength or in yours. I think the thing about prayer is that it places the religious into a posture of listening and paying attention to what they will be asked to do by God to enter into the situation.
But, it seems like many don’t enter into that posture. When that happens they are not praying. They are simply send along well-wishes.
Many might be thinking, “Really? That’s harsh. That’s not a fair statement.” Please hear me loud and clear, pray. God wants us to come to him freely and openly. God wants to hear all that is on our heart. The expectation is that we will bring “everything by prayer and petition” to the Lord. God loves us. When someone loves you they want to communicate with you. They want to talk with you. God is no different. So, bring everything to God. Don’t hold back.
Yet, when we pray it ought to change us. Time with God should change us. I am learning more about this from James. He writes,
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.”
He also writes,
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
If the religious prays and does nothing in response to their prayer I must conclude that they didn’t pray in faith. You see true faith brings about deeds. Faith is right understood as an embodied loyalty. This means that we show our loyalty in our body, our actions. Jesus’ faithfulness was shown by going to cross and rising again. His faithfulness was shown through his body in action.
When we pray in faith it compels us to action. If we do not act in response to our prayer then we are not praying in faith, but we are simply wishing.
How are you praying? Are you praying in faith or are you simply sending wishes?