Prayers to nobody in particular

October 30, 2012

The disaster that is bringing death and devastation to the east coast has certainly captured the public attention (which generally lasts about 12 seconds). You may have even seen the dramatic rescue of 14 crew members from the Bounty. The courage and selfless devotion displayed by the Coast Guard teas was more than moving. For a moment, my faith in humanity (which is not too high in the first place) was somewhat refreshed. Yes, we sometimes do good.

One of the things you will hear and read is prayer. Now, let me state that Glad Streams stands solidly behind prayer and all who pray, but there is a curious aspect of this I would like to discuss. Often the news anchor, or poster on social media, will say something like “we are sending you our thoughts and prayers.” It is a nice thought, and absolutely meaningless.


Individuals would not be capable of acting on prayer, except in the most limited sense, even if they could actually receive another person’s prayers. Who knows whether this is meant to suggest some sort of mental transference or mind reading? I am having too much fun with this idea and it is certainly time to get down to business. There are two areas to examine here. One is purely theological the other is moral.

Only God can receive and act on prayers. He knows our thoughts and is ready to help those in need. It is a good idea to develop some sort of relationship with the Eternal before the day of calamity. Keep the Almighty on your speed dial. It is also a good idea not to be constantly asking for stuff. He is not your personal manservant. God is to be both praised and thanked for his constant provision. Christians pray by the authority and expectancy of Jesus kingdom. As adopted sons (Yes, both male and female Christians are “sons.” It is a theological concept!) it is out right to approach the throne of grace. Sending a fellow-human “thoughts and prayers” is meaningless.

This brings us to the second point. Why are we so hesitant to publicly call on the Lord for assistance. Now, I am not talking about prayer in school here, so do not even go there. Keep prayer and all religious instruction out of public schools. So far as I can tell, they seem to have their hands full with English and Math. (I know that sounds very prejudiced and my unashamed mentioned of the Anglo-Saxon linguistic tradition must speak to some deeper oppressive patriarchal agenda.) We do not need an established state religion. If they did establish the correct religion (mine) today, it would be somebody else’s (incorrect) next week.

Still, one would think that there could be a  public expression of intercession to an actual deity. I would, of course, welcome such a thing as directed to the Triune God of the Bible, but I am willing to live in a world where others express their religion without fear. In fact, Christians will best reach the unbelievers by showing a little patience. This is America, and religious expression is part of the free speech tradition.


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