I’ve noticed in the last few years that when a tragic event happens there are often cries of “don’t pray!” As if prayer is a meaningless, empty exercise that helps no one. I can see how it can seem that way to people who have no faith. But those of us with faith in God and our Lord Jesus Christ know that this is not the case. Prayer is powerful.
The problem, though, is that even Christians are heavily influenced by the secular world these days. I say this because I know it is true of myself as well. We feel we need to do something. Just praying isn’t enough. What does that really do when there are people suffering? It seems we have forgotten the power of prayer in our modern, so-called advanced, 21st century world.
Following the horrible shooting in Orlando this past weekend I once again saw pronouncements on social media telling people “don’t pray.” All I could think was how wrong this is! What is needed now, more than ever, is prayer.
While it is true that there are many needs, both physical and emotional, and that we need to more proactively conquer the hate that fills our society, this does not mean that there is no place for prayer. Prayer changes people. Prayer brings about miracles. Prayer softens hearts. Prayer brings people together.
PRAYER CHANGES US.
If we come to God in all humility, on our knees, knowing we are sinners, He can change us. In prayer we talk to God, we establish a relationship. We are changed by the very act of submitting ourselves to our almighty creator. It doesn’t matter if nothing changes externally, prayer changes us as individuals. Just imagine if more people prayed with this kind of submission and humility. What would that look like? Would that have an effect on the world we live in?
I think the answer is yes. Yes, it would change it for the better. If we have the humility to go to God on our knees knowing that we are imperfect humans, and we do this on a daily basis, hearts will be changed. The hardest part is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’ll probably take years. Many, many years. And it won’t be easy.
This is how we spread love in the world. We are commanded in Scripture to love our neighbor. When asked what one must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answers a question with a question by asking what Scripture says. The reply:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
It’s one thing to say that we should love our neighbor, it’s another to do it. Want to love your neighbor more? The neighbor who you don’t know, the neighbor of a different faith tradition, the atheist neighbor, the LGBTQ neighbor, the neighbors that never speaks to you,the pro-abortion neighbor, and so on and so forth? Pray for them. Pray for them because they are all children of God and they deserve the dignity and love that every human person deserves. Pray for your neighbor, pray for all humankind.
Without prayer, we can’t truly have love. We can’t love our neighbor if we don’t pray for our neighbors. And as we love our neighbors more and more each day, that love will become more and more apparent. That’s what this world needs more of: love for each other. I don’t think we can fully achieve that without prayer.
[And as a side note, it’s important to say here that loving our neighbor does not mean agreeing with them. We can still disagree with people’s choices, lifestyles, etc., and still love them because they have dignity as fellow humans.]
St. Paul sums it up best in his letter to the Romans:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
The only way to learn to love all our neighbors, especially those who we don’t understand, those with whom we disagree, or those who are hard to love is to pray for them. God can do amazing things when you take it to Him. Some can say, “don’t pray.” I say, “Pray like your life depends on it.”
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to love as you love and to treat all people with the love and respect they deserve as children of God. I pray today especially for all those who lost their lives in the fatal shooting at the Orlando nightclub. Have mercy on their souls and may they rest in eternal peace. Amen.