The Dividing Line Over Prayer

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In the wake of recent, horrendous, mass killings, many turn to prayer. Some newscasters and politicians say things like, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones in Paris and San Bernardino.” But other people do not invoke prayer at all. This fact caught the attention of John D. Inazu, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. This month, he wrote an article in which he argues that the major dividing line in our culture is about prayer and a personal God. On the one hand, Inazu says, there are those who believe in a personal God who intervenes in history. On the other hand are those who believe in no God at all, or at least no God who does anything relative to human beings. In other words, the most fundamental cultural difference is between those who believe prayer works, and those who do not:

[S]ome people are moved to pray in response to tragedy and others insist that prayer doesn’t “work” and isn’t “doing” anything. We see it in the puzzled and impatient reactions to the acts of forgiveness extended by the family members of those killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. We see it in critiques of Christian missionaries who care for the sick and dying in Ebola-stricken lands.

On the other hand, Inazu notes, there are those who strongly object to talk about “thoughts and prayers” directed at victims. There clearly is a divide between those who believe God answers prayer and those who do not.

The Bible, of course, emphatically teaches that God reveals Himself and intervenes in human history and that he answers prayers (e.g., Psalms 145). Do you believe prayer is powerful? I am afraid some Christians rarely pray deep, meaningful prayers. What a tragedy. If you have not already, start a daily prayer habit today. Find a quiet place where you can commune privately with God, and follow the instructions of the following passages:

  • Philippians 4:6. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (cf. James 5:16).
  • Matthew 6:6-7. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words (cf. 1 Peter 3:12).
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-2. I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (cf. Matthew 5:44).

If we believe that God answers prayer, it will show in our lives.

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