Why do Christians pray in response to horrible headlines?
Terrible things happen all over the world every day. We see the headlines describing horrific mass shootings, devastating natural disasters, demoralizing victimization, erupting war-torn regions, and personal tragic circumstances that are heartbreaking, terrifying, and upsetting to read.
When calamitous news is shared on various media outlets, the individual responses from those updates pour out sadness and anger, along with a rousing call to action and support for change. This world needs help and a lot of it. It needs people to dive into the trenches and make a difference.
And many do. But others respond by offering prayers.
Their statements often look like these: “I’m praying for them.” or “I’m praying for this terrible situation.” or “Praying!”
And sometimes, these words can be misunderstood as dismissive and even offensive to those who may not fully understand the depths of them. And perhaps those harsh accusations can sometimes be true. I’m guessing there may be people who claim to offer prayers because they’re unsure how to respond. They may feel it is a helpless or hopeless situation they have no control over. And maybe some people use that phrase as an automatic general gesture, without having the intent to actually pray at all.
And I get that praying for something significant can seem like taking a pass on actually doing anything about it. I see how some people might perceive such a response as an impulsive and careless acknowledgment that feels shallow, detached, and irresponsible. Memes circulate around social media and comments are fueled with passionate disdain for people who share this sentiment.
It’s a cold hard world out there and my gosh, it’s full of misunderstanding, assumptions, and accusations- all with the best intentions. People are passionate about things, I know. People have expectations and assertions and countless declarations when it comes to important concerns and they are at the ready to ring the alarm for justice and action, which is an honorable way to respond.
But there are some people who believe that prayer is the first step, the most important step, toward doing anything of value. And I’d like to explain why because I’m one of those people. I pray for people and circumstances consistently and faithfully.
I want to share what this means for me, a Christian, because my prayers aren’t empty promises, they are filled with the belief that I am doing something that truly matters. I want to clarify what is thought of by some, as a passive cliché, because it is far from that for me. I want to help people understand how significant this phrase is to those who take prayer seriously and why.
You see, I believe the God of the universe is the only source of hope for us all. As a Christian, prayer is an essential ingredient to my Biblical faith, resulting in developing and deepening my relationship with the Lord. Because of this truth embedded in who I am, the single most important thing I do in my life is pray.
So, my first reaction to any individual or global tragic news is to pray, because it is my belief that this broken world and all who live in it are under the authority of a Great God who is compassionate and kind and concerned for us all.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
I believe communication with our Creator is not just about sharing platitudes, but rather committing to something I am called to do constantly.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
I believe that when I approach the throne of God, I crack open the power and provision of our Heavenly Father- and there’s simply nothing passive about that. It is through prayer I find grace, guidance, instruction, strength, conviction, motivation, and ultimately peace in knowing I am entrusting people’s needs into the mighty hands of a God who saves, who loves, who cares for all His people.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
And I have full confidence my prayers will be heard.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (NIV)
When I commit to praying for people who are enduring a situation that feels impossible, I believe the greatest source of strength and power, healing and victory, are in and through Christ, not me.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
When I pray for those who are suffering, I place their care in the hands of the great Comforter who carries our burdens and brings us rest for our souls.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28- (NIV)
I pray when I am crushed with grief for people’s plight and I trust The Holy Spirit intercedes for me, knowing exactly what the people I am praying for need.
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 through wordless groans. Romans 8:26 (NIV)
When I commune with Christ on other people’s behalf, I feel I am giving them the greatest gift of all- requesting the care and comfort of their Maker who knows them best of all. My supplication is for God to protect them in the blaze of their fires and buoy them up in the raging rivers of their lives, the only way He knows how.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
When I see anything or anyone in dire dilemmas, there’s nothing more powerful to me than to seek my lifeline, my anchor in hope, and my resource for guidance and strength. For without it, I am powerless to do much else.
I believe in a God who wants more than anything to hear from me, from you, from all His people, and I know He hears our pleas.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:17 (NIV)
From my prayers, there will be revelations for me in what to do next. That might mean packing my bags and traveling to an afflicted community to serve. It might mean calling my government officials to demand action. It might mean donating to an important cause or writing an encouraging note to someone who is suffering. There are countless assignments God calls me to do in response to my petitions, but I will never know how He can use me best until I pray and ask for God’s instruction.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8 (NIV)
As a Christian, my faith is dead without works. I live my life in a deep conviction of this truth, so wherever God leads, I will go, I will give, I will serve, I will sacrifice, I will speak, I will act.
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. James 2:14-26 (NIV)
Oftentimes, I will not announce publicly what I am doing, because I am not doing it for praise or attention, for my actions are not done in vain. God knows and that is enough.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
And there will be times where I feel led to stay still and remain in prayer and trust that the Lord will step in and move how He moves according to His will for people’s lives.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 (NIV)
So please understand that I am behind those prayers, fueled with compassion and distress, just like you. I want many things you want and I’m passionate about change too. There’s so much we must do to make a difference in this world. Help is needed everywhere and I am ready to dive in, too. This is why prayer is so important to a believer like me. I seek my Lord first for help because I believe it’s the greatest source of help there is for us all.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)
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