One of the side effects of having so many mass shootings, suicide bombings, and other terrorist attacks occur in the world is that I become almost numb to them. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. As the details of the attack on Columbine High School emerged, all the way back in 1999, I remember the horror of it. It lingered with me for many days and weeks afterwards. I think it did for many others as well.
But we’ve come a long way since 1999. Or, perhaps I should say we’ve fallen a long way since then. Guns have always been part of America’s history; mass shootings have not. Evil is rising. And thus we are calloused.
But each time tragedy strikes, we see a lot of Facebook responses like “Pray for Las Vegas”. I’ve also seen, in recent years, increasing backlash against that sentiment. People say “Stop praying and do something.” Typically meaning: let’s get to work on gun control. But I will leave that debate aside for another time.
I think it is important that we do pray for Las Vegas and other victims of tragedy. And I think it’s important for everyone to understand why Christians do so. Why do we pray for any city or people after a tragedy?
Here are five reasons I think we should pray following a tragedy:
We pray because God is sovereign and we are often helpless
You’ve often seen children run to their parents when they’re afraid or when something bad happens. Well, we run to our Father in Heaven. We see a tragedy and we recognize our inability to do anything, so we appeal to God who has the power to act in that situation. And not only does He have the power, but He also cares for His creation.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. – Matthew 10:29 (NIV)
We pray because we genuinely care and feel sorry for the people who have been affected by the tragedy
Think of the families of the victims, think of their friends, and think of how traumatic it must have been to the people who were there but were not injured. Families have been torn apart forever. Many have suffered a great trauma. We want to let them know that we care about what happens to them. Saying “We’ll pray for you” is a nearly universal way of saying “We care for you.”
We pray because the reason why we’re on this earth is to glorify God and bear testimony to Christ’s power over death
Las Vegas is the epitome of the attitude among the people in Isaiah 22:13:
But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! ‘Let us eat and drink,’ you say, ‘for tomorrow we die!'” (NIV)
It’s the attitude of a people who are living for the moment, unconcerned about their eternal future. A tragedy like this has a way of jolting people into reality. It forces them to come to grips with their own mortality. What better opportunity to tell them of eternal life? What better time to illustrate the evil of this world, the consequences of sin, the power of death in this world, and the victory over death our Lord achieved on the cross!
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – I Corinthians 15:55-56 (NIV)
We pray to keep the victims of the tragedy at the forefront of our thoughts and minds
We live in a busy world, and it’s all too easy to have important things driven from our minds by the day-to-day problems of life.
You may keep a prayer journal at home. It’s a good way to keep important issues from being forgotten. I think when people pass around memes of support on Facebook for the people affected by a tragedy it helps serve as a reminder to those who do pray.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
We pray because God works through the prayers of the righteous
If all of God’s people living in the world would be faithful to pray for the victims of a tragedy, whether it be from a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey or by the evil deeds of men as what happened in Las Vegas, think of the impact we might have on the situation for God’s glory?
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous – Proverbs 15:29 (ESV)