How should Christians respond to a mass shooting? A terrorist attack? Nuclear threats? Sexual harassment? Racism and racial tension? Political unrest? Gun violence?
These are the questions people have consistently asked me over the past few years. I must confess I’ve asked myself the same questions many times.
We’re living through a moment in American life unlike any many of us have seen before. Nearly every week some new controversy erupts, some evil act of violence wrecks our daily routine or some international event fills our minds with images of impending war and catastrophic destruction. In fact, quiet weeks — when life doesn’t seem to be spinning out of control — have become an oddity.
Seasons of unrest like the one we’re in pit us against the wall and demand we respond to what’s going on around us. Some Christians take the activist route. Quoting James 2:26, “Faith without works is dead,” they call fellow believers to take up arms, get involved in the public debate and change things for themselves. Others, seeing all the evil and pain around them, quietly determine to make a change in their own lives, families and communities.
If you’re wondering if there’s a wrong or right approach, let me offer you Solomon’s wisdom: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven … A time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-7)
But you know what Scripture never sets a time constraint for? Prayer.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
There’s always a time for prayer.
But our culture doesn’t seem to think so.
Nowadays, our culture dismisses prayer as useless, and accuses Christians who turn to prayer, especially after a tragedy, of using it to escape reality or ignore responsibility. But we turn to prayer because that’s where we must always start if we want to find a way forward from our pain. We turn to God because we need Him to help us make sense of the mess we’re living in and to guide us toward healing.
Yes, we must confront head-on the issues we’re facing, seek solutions to our many problems and vote for men and women who will work toward unity, but we must acknowledge that, apart from God, all our efforts fall short. No human plan will accomplish more than God’s intervention. No human words will comfort the hearts of those who are hurting the way God, through His gentle whispers, can comfort them.
If there’s a problem with praying after tragedy hits or in a time of unrest, it’s not because prayer has turned into an easy go-to answer; it’s probably because we’ve left prayer as a final alternative. Prayer should be our first response, not our last choice. Prayer is not inaction, it’s our greatest action.
Imagine what could happen if every Christian and every church in America committed to pray every day for our country, our communities, our families, our schools and our leaders. I believe America would be a different place.
But please understand, praying for ourselves is also important because it begins with our response to God. You see, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is call to God’s people individually and corporately. It says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Prayer begins with you and your personal response to God. Prayer moves to the church and her response to God. Then, when these things occur, prayer can change a nation.
On Thursday, May 3, millions of Americans will gather in our nation’s capital and throughout all 50 states for the National Day of Prayer. Millions of voices will rise in unified prayer for our nation, asking God to heal and unite us as a people.
I hope you and your family will join us, and together pray for a new fresh movement of God in America.
Ronnie Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church and president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which mobilizes millions of Americans to unified public prayer for the United States of America. Follow him on Twitter (@ronniefloyd), Instagram (@ronniefloyd) and Facebook.
My Faith Votes is a nonpartisan movement focused on motivating Christians in America to participate in local and domestic elections. By partnering with local churches, pastors and national faith leaders, My Faith Votes mobilizes and resources Christians to lead the conversation on the place of faith in culture and politics.