Prayer Shaming After a Mass Shooting in San Bernardino
Following the murder of at least 14 people in California, the reaction against calls for prayer has been sharp.
There’s a clear claim being made…, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers.
There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can’t be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence. At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.
I wonder how some of those conclusions were reached?
Could it be because the devotion of so many “Christians” to a particular party-political stance has given an impression that makes those judgements seem valid?
The first two ideas below are teachings I’ve come across a number of times. The third view is a very simplified description of my own.
1) God WILL do nothing in answer to prayer, because He has already pre-ordained the whole outcome of history, down to the smallest incident. For God to actually respond to prayer would mean that He is dependent on man and that man can have an influence on God – if that were the case, God could not truly be sovereign. At best prayer is merely finding and professing agreement with the things God has already determined.
2) God CAN do nothing without prayer, because He has no jurisdiction on earth so needs mankind’s prayer to give Him authority to act here. After creating man, God gave man authority on earth – something that man soon gave over to Satan through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Jesus as man won back that authority for man, enabling God legal access to act on earth again through the intercession of men and women.
3) God has chosen to respond to prayer. Prayer is not some kind of force independent of the one to whom we pray. God doesn’t NEED mankind to pray but mankind needs to pray to Him. God has established prayer as a way for man to grow in relationship with Him. Prayer can test faith, and faith exercised strengthens the relationship between man and God. Prayer encourages us into a greater understanding of who God is and what His purposes are.
God WILL change things in the world and in people’s lives in response to prayer, if a variety of conditions are met such as: faith, the right motive; and right relationship with God and with others. A requested outcome has to be in accordance with God’s character and His greater purposes.
I refer to character and purposes instead of saying “according to God’s will” because many people pick up strange ideas about God’s will from isolated bible verses, or from teachings they adopt and many see that “God’s will” is something fixed, predetermined and unchangeable and yet through scripture we see multiple instances of God changing His intended action in response to prayer and/or repentance.