No prayers necessary? Really?

Americans are experiencing mass murder fatigue. One of the saddest outcomes of the San Bernardino shootings is that in frustration we’re turning on each other instead of on the perps. Everyone wants somebody to do something, but nobody has any great or clear ideas. A Twitter war has broken out between advocates of greater gun control and those offering “thoughts and prayers.”

The New York Daily News is ready for action. Yesterday its cover story headline read, “God Isn’t Fixing This,” and the article began, “Prayers Aren’t Working.” So it’s come to that. Prayer shaming is now what passes for thoughtful editorial policy on a major national newspaper.
It is going to be a very contentious political season. People want to know why the FBI wasn’t tracking sociopaths like Farook and Malik, the people considered to be the shooters.  But some of those same people heap scorn and political pressure on government wiretaps, drones, and data gathering. President Obama and many others want more gun control.

It is a legitimate subject for intelligent debate as to whether or not assault weapons should be sold to the general public (Farook and Malik used two AR-15s in their attack and shoot-out with the police) or whether there should be more stringent background checks (Farook and Malik’s weapons were bought legally).

But is that the big answer? The pair could have entered the Inland facility and caused almost the same mayhem with just their handguns.
Mocking God and people who believe in and pray to God is not a solution—it is just the thoughtless and abusive knee jerk of people who are afraid and angry and have no use for God who doesn’t act on their script. Here are some thoughts on this sad day:

  1. Snotty remarks about the futility of prayer can be made only by people blinded to God’s actual working in our lives. Scripture tells us repeatedly that God’s holy angels, led by their great commander the archangel Michael, are at work protecting God’s people. You know, you can’t see something that didn’t happen. Believers are serenely confident that someday we will be made aware of all the disasters from which we were spared, many because we prayed and asked for deliverance! Yes, prayers are necessary. You and I have no idea what God is going to do behind the scenes, and our inability to see everything he’s up to does not deny its reality. Prayers to an omnipotent God in the name of Jesus change the course of world events.
  2. God never promised heaven on earth. Heaven will be experienced in heaven. God gave mankind the awesome and daring dignity of freedom of choice and action, and with it he decided to allow real consequences, both bad and good. The dreadful sickness of sin that Adam and Eve introduced into our world will plague human society until Christ returns and not a minute sooner. Cruelty and violence will not go away, no matter what kind of laws we try to pass.
  3. The people considered to be the shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, died in a hail of gunfire in their SUV, so there will be no bringing them to any kind of American justice. They may even have thought that they were doing Allah a favor or that they would inherit a greater place in Paradise by dying as “martyrs” for their religion. But they will have to face the true God, one who does not condone gunning down innocent people. We don’t have to fret that they escaped justice. “‘I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
  4. Anything that our government can do from now on cannot bring back even one of the victims from the dead. This is a hard fact of life on this earth—we are guaranteed no tomorrows. Now is the time to recognize the truth of Scripture’s diagnosis of our own sin and its eternal consequences; now is the time to respond to the gospel invitation of Christ. If this day were your last, are you ready to meet the Judge?
  5. God has already “fixed” the problem of human sin. He did it by sending his Son to his death on our behalf. This opens up heaven’s gates to us to escape this broken world.

Tragedies like the San Bernadino shooting leave us all asking questions. Next week I want to help you be prepared to answer some of those questions--for yourself, other Christians, non-Christians, and for your children.

Here's what we'll be talking about next week:

  • Do we need to fear?
  • The hate, evil, and violence in the world
  • Is God really in control?
  • What do I do?
  • How will God fix this?

Join me as we wrestle with these tough issues together.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus Lutheran Church on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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