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?