A blog by Josh Humbert
The entire cover of the New York Daily News thunders and booms; all outrage, no subtlety. The bombastic headline and aggressive text below put all the cards on the table. There’s no mystery when you claim: “God Isn’t Fixing This,” in bold black and white. There’s no intricacy when you put in red, bold, underlined font the label of “coward” for those who tweet out prayers….errr, I mean, “meaningless platitudes.”
It was as if indignation itself became a person with the power to publish and it was time to go to print.
Thus, we see the continual rise of “prayer-shaming.”
For many, it has now become fashionable (once again) to castigate, disparage, and outright mock those who might engage in prayer during a time of tragedy.
In the hours following the shooting in San Bernardino, California, prayer-shaming on Twitter became almost a sport. Anyone who offered “prayers” for those affected was quickly slammed and criticized.
Realize I could go on at length with more just like this but you get the point. As Emma Green wrote in The Atlantic “There’s a claim being made here, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers. These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews.”
It’s worth considering that last sentence and the questions that arise from it. Is policy-making the “action” that is needed? Is THAT the answer? Is prayer really “doing nothing”? Is it cowardly inaction?
To be sure, mocking people for praying is not going to encourage healthy discussion and problem-solving on ANY issue. That actually is the least productive thing anyone can be doing at this juncture. At a time when there is a need to come together, think through issues, and decide on a way forward….you think the first step that’s oh-so-crucial and tweet-worthy is to deride someone’s beliefs? And you think that’s going to move the conversation forward how, exactly? #RealProductive
To be sure, it can also be troubling if a person claims to “pray” to God but have life choices that don’t reflect an obedience to God’s Word. Are they just paying lip-service? Are they just checking a box to maybe get a bump in the polls? #RealAuthentic
Who is going to “fix this,” friends?
The truth is if your ultimate hope is in a policy, you will be let down. A piece of legislation isn’t equipped with a payload large enough to deal with the sinful brokenness in the hearts of men.
The truth is if you only pay lip-service to prayer, you will never know it’s power. Your post might get retweeted but it won’t get a “mention” with the One can do something with it.
The truth is prayer-shaming isn’t new or clever. It’s been going on for centuries. Some splashy headline with all the font-manipulation you can conjure up doesn’t mean you’re original. This is a boring, tired trend that’s been around and been exposed before.
God isn’t fixing this? You’re about 2,000 years late to that insult.
Jesus was no stranger to prayer-shaming. He faced it directly as He went to the Cross. Though He prayed continuously throughout the whole ordeal, Jesus will be ridiculed for the powerlessness of His prayer by literally everyone involved with His death.
In Mark 15, we see the “chief priests and teachers of the law” mock him and throw out their punchlines: “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself.”
In Luke 22, it’s the Roman soldiers who have their turn. They say, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
In Matthew 27, priests and others shout out loud, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the Chosen of God.”
Then, in Luke 23, it is one of the criminals who is also being crucified that day who venomously hollers, “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
Think of the magnitude of this for a moment. EVERYONE was questioning, mocking, and shaming His prayer that day. This wasn’t just a particular political party. This wasn’t just the snark-brigade on Twitter. This was everyone. You have the Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, the common people, even the criminal suffering with Him. If they could’ve printed a paper the next day, the headline they all would have agreed on would have been: God Didn’t Fix It.
And I’m so thankful that He didn’t.
God didn’t step in. God didn’t stop it. God didn’t break it up. God didn’t end it. God didn’t fix it.
In the most astonishing twist of all, God Himself was doing this. Jesus had lived a perfectly obediently life; the life we could never live. Jesus was now dying in our place to pay our price. All that sinful brokenness that no mere policy could deal with was, at this moment, being dealt with. Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice, meeting God’s Perfect Justice. This was the plan of salvation for sinners like you and me.
God wasn’t fixing this for Jesus so that He could redeem us all who can’t fix it on our own.
God didn’t fix it for Jesus. So now there’s a hope for any radical ISIS terrorist who will turn from their hate and treasure the love of Christ. Now there’s hope for the two-faced politician who sees the authentic beauty of the Cross. Now there’s hope for the Democrat and the Republican who don’t put their hope in a policy but in a Person, the Man, Jesus Christ.
Now there’s hope for you and me. The good news is that God didn’t fix it for Jesus, so now we have….a prayer.
That makes all the difference in the world.
The Gospel is indeed why we DO pray in a time of terrible tragedy. God hears. God listens. God does have a plan.
The Cross shows the power and glory of His marvelous ways. What seemed as the darkest day was, in fact, redemption in motion. While the headline may have read “God Didn’t Fix It,” just two days later would come the greatest headline of all, “The Tomb Is Empty!”
It was as if Hope had become a Person with the power to RISE and it was time to bring new life.
He conquered death; put that in black and white. He rose again, just like He said He would; underline that and make it bold. That’s why I pray to Him. That’s why 5 minutes of talking with Jesus is more powerful than 50 days of politickin’ with all the presidents in the world.
He hears prayer.
He can be trusted.
He makes a difference.
He is God and He redeems.
Let us pray for those involved in this horrific tragedy. Let us pray for comfort and peace. Let us pray for God’s glorious presence to be known and felt. Let us pray for prayer-shamers and the politicians. Let us pray to the Living God.
Thanks for reading. As always, your comments and insights are welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. You can also find more content in the archives.
Well said Mr. Humbert.
It’s not knowledge we lack, but Humility…to quote a wise Man of Music.
There is Only 1 Way to the Light…follow the SON.