Is Prayer Enough?: How to Respond in the Wake of Tragedy

At the moment of tragedy, there is nothing but raw emotion. Pain for those who lost lives. Sympathy for those who lost loved ones. Anger at those who caused the senseless loss. For a few brief moments, everyone is together in their pain. During this time, everyone says they are praying. Everyone *says* they are praying.

Then, as quickly as it all started, we move on into analysis. Who did this? Why did it happen? What can we do to prevent it? This is normally when division breaks out, when the tragedy becomes political and heated and messy. People get angry at those who are “politicizing the tragedy,” others get upset at those who are still feeling. “Praying isn’t enough. We need to do something.” I have to ask, since when is praying not doing something?

First, I want to speak to those who are not Christians, or, at the very least, believe prayer isn’t a rational response to tragedy.

As a Christian, when I tell you I am praying for you or for our President or for a tragedy, it means I am lifting your problems, the world’s problems up to who I believe is the highest source of power in the universe. I am doing, what is to me, the most powerful thing I can do for you.

How dare you tell me I don’t care enough.

Prayer may not be your response, but that does not mean it is meaningless. Religion may not be the foundation of your life, but that does not mean it isn’t important to someone else. How dare you add more pain and more hurt and more division to our world.

Now, I’d like to speak to those who say they are praying. To those who post on Facebook and Twitter that they are praying for the victims.

Are you actually praying?

When articles come out saying prayer is meaningless and when political candidates say “Prayer isn’t enough,” they are completely right if you are simply posting it to social media, but never encountering God in prayer. If you are changing your Facebook status to show you are engaged with world news, but never engage God in prayer, then everyone who doubts God and doubts prayer during times of tragedy are completely right. That kind of prayer is absolutely NOT enough.

Despite what many are trying to say, prayer is a vital part of any Christian’s relationship with God. Jesus, himself, prayed fervently and often. In his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller writes:

“Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray, healed people with prayers, denounced the corruption of the temple worship (which, he said, should be a ‘house of prayer’), and insisted that some demons could be cast out only through prayer. He prayed often and regularly with fervent cries and tears (Heb. 5:7), and sometimes all night. The Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him as he was praying (Luke 3:21-22), and he was transfigured with the divine glory as he prayed (Luke 9:29). When he faced his greatest crisis, he did so with prayer. We hear him praying for his disciples and the church on the night before he died (John 17:1-26) and then petitioning God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he died praying.” (27)

Jesus prayed! The perfect, holy son of God prayed! So, why do so many Christians see it as an after thought? As a meaningless platitude to spout off when someone passes away or when tragedy strikes? Pray! Get down on your knees and lift up your worries and concerns to God and see how your life changes. Imagine what the world would look like if every person who said they were praying actually prayed.

Now that we’re praying for victims, let’s take this prayer a step further. Anyone with eyes can see that America has a problem with gun violence. Whether at the hands of inner-city gangs, lone radicals, or accidents, people are dying. This issue has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a hot button issue. Despite what many think, prayer and politics don’t need to be separate.

Maybe you don’t know where you stand on the issue. Seek God’s guidance through prayer.

Maybe you think you know exactly where you stand. Seek God’s guidance through prayer to ensure your convictions are also God’s convictions.

Maybe the answer to this problem lies in more laws. Maybe the answer lies in a change of heart for the American people. The bottom line is that regardless of political background, religious affiliation, or social class, everyone wants these mass shootings to stop. We all hope to one day see a week pass by without news of another senseless tragedy.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” - Romans 8: 22-27

So Long,