Published November 14, 2017

Paul's Epistle
"When You Pray..."

Do you believe in prayer? Do you believe in the power of personal prayer to the Lord? It's certainly a fundamental Christian belief — that God hears and answers prayer and that all Christians should pray to our Heavenly Father. In fact, in His prologue to what we know as the Lord's Prayer (and elsewhere), Jesus said to His disciples, "when you pray..." He didn't say "if" you pray, he said "when." Praying, for a Christian, is a "given," not an option.

Last week, I devoted this column to the ongoing and growing persecution of Christians around the world, including in the USA. And I mentioned that persecution here in the West is usually quite subtle — but rapidly becoming more overt.

As if to underscore that argument, I was stunned to read a comment from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Responding to President Trump's statement that his "prayers are with the victims and families of today's horrible and murderous attack," Cuomo ridiculed Trump and other leaders for praying. He sneered, "We have pastors, priests and rabbis to offer 'thoughts and prayers."' In other words, let the "professionals" pray – and let the politicians get busy solving the humanly unsolvable by imposing more restrictive laws. Cuomo seems to be saying that, clearly, government can do more than God can do.

Cuomo wasn't alone in his public ridicule of prayer. Other secular leftists had even more critical things to say about those who actually believe in prayer. One actor, who shall remain nameless here (I never heard of him anyway) made the point in an obscenity-laced post that, after all, the shooting victims were in a church, praying – so clearly prayer doesn't solve anything. (Wow, my paraphrase really cleaned that up.)

Contrast those criticisms above to the comments from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who joined the President in calling on everyone to pray for the families of the victims and those clinging to life following the attack. About the secular left's attacks on calls for prayer, Ryan explained, "People who do not have faith don't understand faith... And [prayer] is the right thing to do...because, you know what, prayer works..." And, on national TV, Ryan concluded, "It's no wonder you have so much polarization and disunity in this country when people think like that."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council characterizes the left's apparent view with these words: "Only the ignorant and unenlightened believe in a power higher than government. Only the deplorable flyovers cling to their guns and religion..." But, as Perkins notes, "Prayer isn't the problem. It's part of the solution."

Interestingly, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn, wrote that he was sickened by secular liberals' outrageous ridicule. He wrote, "Those doing the taunting apparently have no idea how childish their understanding of prayer is. As the families that come each week to the First Baptist Church appreciate, prayer is not a magic talisman against suffering. In a faith that commands its adherents to pick up their crosses, prayer is a way to praise the Almighty and, when necessary, ask for courage and resolve to do the right thing." Finally, some respectably clear thinking in the national media!

Sure, it's difficult to understand a mass killing such as this one in Texas, which one survivor described to the Washington Post as a "slaughter." And, yes, the victims apparently were praying. But only God knows what they were praying. Were they praying for the safety of others, some of whom miraculously escaped? Were they even praying for the gunman? Did their prayers prevent further killings that the gunman apparently planned. Only God knows. We can only speculate. And who knows how many other people, in that church and over the centuries, have been spared by efficacious and intercessory prayer?

Peter wrote, "...even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed..." (1 Peter 3:14).

And just look at how God has used this tragedy to call attention to the faith of those in that church. Many of the survivors have been on national TV – on secular newscasts, viewed by millions – sharing their faith, thanking and praising God for their own safety, and praying for survivors. The media has stood amazed at how the church's survivors are standing with each other, taking care of each other, supporting each other, loving each other, and how other Christians in the community — and from across the nation — have stood with them. What a testimony to the inner change that Christ makes in lives! See, God has a way of turning even such an horrendous incident as this shooting into something that will bring Him Glory.

The world won't understand, but the pastor of the Sutherland Springs church had it right. Rev. Frank Pomeroy told reporters that, in the wake of the horrible shooting that took his daughter's life and about half of the congregation, he has decided, more than ever before, to "lean into the Lord." And, in a simple expression of Christian perspective that each of us needs to remember, he said, "I don't understand, but I know my God does."

- Paul

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