Yesterday there was another violent incident at a university. A Muslim attacked multiple people with his car and a knife. Since the tragedy, America has risen up to offer sympathy and prayers. Social media is flooded with messages about prayer. News personalities, celebrities, and politicians are offering thoughts and prayers. Even Ivanka Trump, daughter of the President-elect, Donald Trump offered this statement... "Sending love and prayers to the Ohio State University campus and community following today's tragic events."
Prayer is important. Most people pray. Muslims pray to Allah. They face Mecca to pray to Allah. They do it five times a day. Hindus pray toward the idea of an ultimate peace (Brahman), communicating through many gods to access what they want. Followers of other religions may pray to their ancestors, or the sun, or the Earth.
Christians pray to God. We pray primarily to the Father in the name or authority of Jesus Christ, by the leading of the Holy Spirit. During prayer we acknowledge who God is, and our dependency upon Him. We confess our sins or faults to Him. We thank Him for the blessings He bestows upon us. We seek His guidance and provision in our lives. We pray to a God we know... personally. And we expect Him to hear us and work in our behalf.
For most of American history we have generally been Christian in our approach to God. This included our prayer habits. You can see this not only in the prayers of pastors, but in the prayers of politicians and most every prayer you read from early Americans. But something interesting has happened in our Western culture over the last couple of generations. As we have pushed God out of our mainstream, including our educational system, our government, and our marketplace, we continue to pray... but we have had to shift our prayer away from God. It doesn't make sense to pray to someone whose existence you deny, or whose input you don't want, right?
So we still feel like we need to pray, but we have kicked God to the curb. That's awkward. What does that look like? Well, now instead of sending prayers to God, we send prayers to people. Prayer has morphed from being a petition we send to God, to being a package of thoughts and feelings we send to people. We have taken on an approach to prayer that is similar to the religions of the Far East. Prayer is now not a conversation we have with a personal God. Rather it is an exchange of feelings we have within the community. This makes sense. As we ejected God from our lives, we didn't replace Him with dolphins or the sun, or our ancestors. We replaced Him with ourselves. This is the religion of Humanism. Humans are the center or highest expression of life.
It all makes sense. If humans are the ultimate life reality, then humans are the ones to whom we would send our prayers. In 1863, the President would announce that we were in desperate need of help, recognize Almighty God was the only one who could save us, and proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting, encouraging people to ask God to save us from destruction. But in 2016, most leaders, and most people will say that there are a few mentally ill people or religious extremists doing crazy stuff, so we should clamp down on bad actions with more laws, and send each other prayers, love, good vibes, energy hugs, or whatever turns you on.
Think about your Facebook for a minute. If you ask for prayer for an issue you are facing, how often do people say, "Sending prayers your way"? I'm not trying to condemn the intent. But people used to say, "I will pray for you." This meant they would send prayers to God for you. Now they are sending prayers your way.
This is a significant shift. We used to turn our attention upward to find deliverance from God, but we now turn our attention to each other to find good feelings in desperate times. We send prayers to people rather than God. Then we wonder why we are not rescued. We send prayers like we send gift cards or flowers. We ignore the only One who can truly save, and send our thoughts of sadness to people in need. We point to each other rather than pointing the hurting to God. We have abandoned the One who answers prayer, so how do we expect to receive the blessing of prayer?
The Bible talks a lot about prayer. The word 'pray' can be found hundreds of times in Scripture. But not once are we told to send prayers to people. Rather, we are constantly told that we should send prayers TO God FOR people. Here is one mention of the purpose of prayer...
"Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
That's a pretty good word for America today... don't you think? In fact, it is probably a good word for you today. Today you will likely have a need. When you meet your crisis, it will be natural for you to seek support from friends. And that is NOT a bad thing. We were made to support each other in difficult times. But know that your ultimate help does not come from your horizontal relationships. It comes from your vertical relationship. Pray to God. If your friend is going through something, give them love. Send them a card or a note. But send your prayers for them to Heaven, where the God of the universe is waiting to work on their behalf.
"Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
In case you were wondering what a Christian prayer looks like, here is a basic prayer without specifics...
"Dear Father God, I am limited, but I know you are infinite. I have no right to approach you based on my own deeds, for I know I fall short of what You created me to be. I repent of my sin. But You have been good to me. Thank you for giving me life, my family and friends, my health, my job, and every good thing. I do need help today. I need you to give me wisdom for dealing with a certain area of my life. I also need a special provision for an unexpected bill that has come up. I thank You for being my Provider, and I trust You to take care of me. I say and ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who opened up the avenue for relationship with You... Amen."
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.