As we witnessed Hurricane Matthew barrel through the Caribbean, we are seeing pleas for prayer posted on social media now that it has touched down on U.S. soil. Aside from the controversy of which tragedy is selected for prayer on a mass scale, when this occurs, a vocal minority speaks up out of frustration. They say, “Why are we always praying? We must donate and send supplies. Prayer doesn’t change anything!”
Along with those words, the accusation leveled against people who pray is that they don’t do anything. It’s usually an either/or type of response that they accuse us of—us meaning Christians. The either/or is that they assume that if we pray we’re not doing anything, or if we were doing something, we wouldn’t need to pray.
In order to address the effectiveness of prayer during these times, we need to know why we pray over these situations in the first place. I say this because prayer has been devalued in our culture in some ways. It is merely a kind gesture to people, with prayer reduced to a mechanism of comfort or good will toward those affected by tragedy.
Prayer is more than this. When we pray during or after a tragic circumstance, our purpose is to maintain a God-centered perspective, ask for wisdom and guidance in our response, empower those who are there to help, and empower us to demonstrate His love and compassion. It is not to absolve us of the responsibility to serve those in need or to make us feel good about ourselves. Prayer is an important demonstration of the sovereignty of God over us, and is designed to take the attention off of us in the first place.
The same sovereignty of God that we become aware of when we pray impacts those who are directly involved with recovery efforts, as well as those who are there with ulterior motives. Sin doesn’t stop because of a tragedy. In fact, it is easier to do so because of the vulnerable state that victims and their families are in. So even if we don’t pray and we just donate uncritically to say that we’ve done something, we can end up being a bad steward of our funds if it ends up in the wrong hands.
The book of James says the prayers of the righteous are effective, and the Lord Jesus Himself said to pray that the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, so be encouraged that it is through Christ that prayer makes an impact.
You’re called to talk to God because He promised that He will hear you. That has nothing to do with the unbelief of those around you. Be aware that God is confident in Himself and His word, and will do what He has purposed in His heart to do.
We at Grow The Heck Up offer our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones or have been displaced by this hurricane. We pray that the comfort of God will be felt by them all. We also pray that every effort of relief reaches those who are in need.
Hurricane Matthew has hit Haiti the hardest, and Samaritan’s Purse is one organization that is on the ground giving relief to this country. Here’s the link below to donate to them.
Samaritan’s Purse Donation Info: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/haiti-samaritans-purse-responding-to-hurricane-matthew/