Why are Thoughts and Prayers Insufficient?

Why are Thoughts and Prayers Insufficient?

The headline in the National Post read:

‘Your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient’: Jimmy Kimmel tearfully calls for gun control

Is America’s national Thoughts and Prayers Strategy (TAPS) no longer working? That is a question raised in an article in Maclean’s magazine making statements which can be disturbing to the Christian community.

Here is one example: Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that TAPS may not be delivering the results we would expect from appealing to an omniscient and all-powerful deity.

In other words, thinking about others and praying to God is simply not effective and the results are not clearly evident. We ought to think more about what is really accomplished through “thoughts and prayers” because it seems to be terribly misunderstood, especially in light of recent incidents of violence.

The power of thinking is impactful on the person having the thoughts and only impactful on others when those thoughts are expressed.  Many have probably quoted the proverb that says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” If a person then, is consumed with thoughts of murder and killing, and those thoughts are not taken captive, they will eventually be acted upon and that person can become what was thought about. I would suggest that this is exactly what takes place when murderous acts happen; the thoughts transform the person to become what he is thinking.

The idea expressed in the Maclean’s article is that the thoughts and prayers of US congressman are somehow supposed to alter the behaviour of the American people. Let’s get it right; the thoughts and prayers are to comfort after an event like these incidents  (Las Vegas, USA and Edmonton in Canada) and should not be trivialized.  Maybe it is true that the thinking around gun control needs to change in order to make America a safer place, but please don’t diminish the effectiveness of “thoughts and prayers” for the people impacted by these sorts of incidents.

A most challenging statement for many Christians is this one: This data is very surprising when you consider the power of beseeching God. You would think parting the Red Sea, or smiting the Egyptians with a plague of frogs, would be far more difficult than just reducing gun violence. It is worth noting, however, that most well-known examples of successful celestial intervention in earthly affairs are over two millennia old.

Pray for LVHe goes on to cite the reasons for the non-response from God, which could be denominational, or we are not praying enough, or the wrong people are praying, or praying wrongly (kneeling or not, with eyes open or eyes closed).

When I read these statements it upsets me because in my 50+ years on earth, I have seen God’s intervention. As a matter of fact, without it I would have only been here for 5 years because meningitis would have taken my life. We need to think deeper about the true purpose of prayer.

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Soren Kierkegaard

From this quote, we see the focus is really about bringing change within the person who prays. Therefore, the focus of “thoughts and prayers” is actually more about changing the thinker and pray-er rather than those being thought about or prayed for. However, I certainly can testify that both can be transformed by prayer. I wonder if we have really missed the true power of prayer and thereby dismissed its effectiveness. Isn’t prayer about relationship with God, communicating with Him regularly rather than someone we call on only in crisis? Relationship with God through prayer is meant to change us. When prayer changes us, that’s when we can be an influence for change.

Just think for a moment about what God said when he created earth and also man. He said, “Let them (man) rule over the earth.” Mankind has been placed in a position of authority and influence by God, within nations to effect change as it is needed.

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” – Corrie ten Boom

Think about it –  we often use prayer to God as a spare tire. When there is a major incident or crisis, we call out to him. Prayer is meant to be our steering wheel which actually sets our course. It is meant to be part of our lives daily, not just when we have a blow out.

Does God intervene today? Maybe someone like paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, who had her neck broken as a teenager is much better qualified to answer this question:

“God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves”

She calls suffering “a splash of hell” but maintains that a “splash of heaven” can be found through intimacy with Christ in the midst of it. And she can say so because she has found it to be true. The first part of that statement is strikingly similar to Jimmy Kimmel’s statement, “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” The problem is most are missing the “splash of heaven” since intimacy with Christ only comes through “thoughts and prayers” on a regular basis, not just at times like this.

What influences your life most? The splash of hell? Or the splash of heaven?

Why Do You Work? Why Retire?

My last post created a great deal of interest because it dealt with the question: “Do you go to work or to a job?” One response received was, “In two weeks I will go to neither,” meaning the reader would be retiring.

This set me to thinking further about what I stated: “It is only when you do what you were born to do will you really find fulfillment.” In reality, you can be paid to do a job and once you complete it, then you either move on to something else and/or you retire. This is where I believe your work (what you were born to do) is different than your job (what you are paid to do). Why would you ever want to stop doing what brings you fulfillment? If you were born to do something, when should you cease doing it? In other words, why retire?

In some cases, it may make sense financially to retire. Maybe you qualify for a full pension and working longer is not necessarily increasing your retirement benefits anyway. So why continue working? When I started working, it was partially out of necessity. The need for income and supporting family is a valid reason. With my children raised, my reason for working has shifted; now work is more about purpose.  I know several people who can easily retire from their work, yet they choose to continue.

eric liddell

Consider the life of Eric Liddell, a devout Christian and missionary to China, who felt it a priority to run in the Olympic games. His sister felt that his training for the 1924 Olympics deterred him from returning to China. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.” We usually would not class running or involvement in a sporting activity as spiritual, or God honouring, but more a physical activity. For Liddell, running wasn’t just a fun activity but a God honouring one.

You cannot argue with a person’s experience; Liddell was passionate about fulfilling God’s purpose for him (missionary to China) yet he ran to honour God and feel His pleasure. For Liddell, the line between secular and sacred was erased.

eric olympic gold

The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23). The reality is that when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7). If we can say when we work we feel His pleasure, it will be most difficult to retire from that work.

Speaker and author of “The New Retire-mentality,” Mitch Anthony says, “Don’t retire from something but retire to something.” We are all born with purpose and if you are at the retirement stage, remember it can be a great opportunity to feel His pleasure!

 

 

How Churchill Advised The Queen

How Churchill Advised The Queen

the-crown-netflixWe recently watched the new series”The Crown” on Netflix. It is a drama series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is quite amazing how the cast resembles the people we have watched for decades in different forms of media.

While we may not know if many of the scenes or words spoken are all exactly true, I found some advice Winston Churchill gave the young Queen to be very interesting. As she was leaving on a flight to tour some countries in the Commonwealth, he instructed, “Never let them see the real Elizabeth Windsor. The cameras, the television; never let them see that carrying the crown is often a burden. Let them look at you but let them see only the eternal.”

Churchill was telling her that although people will look at her, she must determine what she lets them see. In essence, the Queen needed to represent the crown more than herself. Her priority was to put the interest of the crown ahead of her own delight. This entails self-denial, sacrifice and service for the higher purpose of the crown. Churchill instructed the Queen to display the eternal, or higher calling.

We are seen everyday by others but what do we let them see?

While we may not live the life of a Royal, we all have choices to make about how we are seen by others. We all have opportunities to “let them see only the eternal.” We try to be at our best when we have an important meeting, but are we intentional about who we represent? For the Queen, she was called to represent something that existed before she was even born.

The fact is eternity is set within the heart of each of us, even commoners, and whether we recognize it or not, we are all representing something greater than ourselves. That also means there is a grander purpose in the conversations we have than we realize.

At times, I have felt my life lacked meaning and purpose. However, I now know that during those times, I failed to recognize the eternal in my day-to-day life. It is too easy for us to become focused only on the routine of the day and overlook the opportunities to have an impact that is eternal. Consider the words you share and the advice you provide to others. In many cases it has a greater impact than you realize.