In the wake of the horrendous shootings that happened in San Bernadino, CA a few days ago, one newspaper managed to capture the imagination of the nation with a statement that has forced everyone to reconsider a whole host of issues. Here is my response to that piece of work.

First, let me just say this: The headline was cleverly conceived. It juxtaposes pictures of Republican Presidential candidates saying that they are praying for the victims of the shootings with the statement, “God isn’t fixing this.” Provocative, even incendiary. No one can remain neutral. Good job. But let’s examine this a little deeper.

First, let’s look at the assumptions behind the statement: a) It assumes that God is interested in the affairs of humanity, even if He is unable or unwilling to solve some of their problems; b) It assumes that prayer alone does not fix anything; c) It assumes that somebody (or something) other than God can fix “this.”

Which brings me to the “this” question. If the “this” refers to the shooting that just happened, no one can fix “this.” The damage has already been done, lives have been lost, pain has been inflicted, and no amount of “fixing” will do.

But I don’t think that’s what the authors intended. The “this” probably refers to the problem of gun-related violence in our country. I will leave it to the experts to decide if more gun control will fix anything. They don’t seem to agree right now but it does seem that some momentum is building for law makers to close some loopholes in the laws so that access to guns will be more restricted.

Now to the assumptions behind the statement. We don’t need the Daily News to remind us that God is interested in our stuff of life, but thanks anyway for bringing God into the conversation. The way God is involved daily with the affairs of people who suffer in our world is through the compassionate actions of His people. I don’t have to remind you of the myriad of ways Jesus’ followers are helping alleviate the suffering of people around the world.

For example, when Hurricane Katrina happened, after the cameras left town and while FEMA was still missing, it was church folks that carried the bulk of relief and recovery work. I know because I did work in Slidell, LA for 8 months with teams from my previous church. Everywhere I went people kept telling me that it was church people who kept giving them hope. So not only is God interested, He’s also providing solutions.

The second assumption — that prayer alone doesn’t fix things — reflects an incomplete understanding of the nature of prayer. Prayer is not just to ask things; it’s also worship, it’s thanksgiving, it’s contemplation. The success of a prayer is not always measured in getting what we asked for; it is also measured through a willing submission to God’s will, like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The statement also runs the risk of diminishing the value of those whose only possible work is to offer prayer. William Carey is known as the father of modern missions. He spent his life in India and translated the Bible to 37 different dialects there. But he didn’t do this all by his own power. His sister, whom he affectionately called Polly, was bed ridden most of her life and for 52 years lifted every one of Carey’s burden before the Heavenly Father. Is it too much to say that she was a big reason for his success?

The final assumption of this statement is that somebody or something  other than God can fix this problem. Politicians, more gun control laws, more vigilance, you name it, we are not lacking for ideas. Now, don’t misunderstand me when I say this, but the fact is that every one of these remedies has been tried or is being tried somewhere, to no avail. Not to say that we cannot do better. We always can. But ultimately only a radical transformation of someone’s heart can end the hatred and animosity that people feel toward each other, and as far as I can tell, changing hearts is still God’s business. That’s His domain and He is quite good at it.

So forget how clever the phrase was, forget how it got everyone talking about God and prayer, forget the sarcasm and the snide remarks about people who pray. When it’s all said and done, I don’t care whether you bend your knees first and roll up your sleeves later. I don’t even care if you are not able to take action. Only God knows the heart and the true stories behind each prayer offered to Him. And as far as I am concerned, I would rather take my cues from the Bible than from some journalist sitting in an editorial room, pontificating about something s/he may not have any idea about.

God’s view of our prayers is so dramatically different from the one expressed in that statement, as we learn from Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”

Every prayer offered in faith to God is extremely valuable in His eyes. They are not offered simply to fix things; they are mostly about fixing ourselves. And when it comes to that, there is nothing God cannot fix.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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