One of the things I love about the church that I am honored to pastor is that we have a mix of people from various political backgrounds on various issues. Some of us are progressive, some of us are conservative, and most of us vary depending upon the issue. I am more progressive than many I know concerning guns because I believe there are things we can do and need to do relating to better gun control, and I am more conservative than many I know because I own guns, and enjoy hunting and “plinking” with them.
So when there are mass shootings (it haunts me that I so easily type “when there are mass shootings”) I am surrounded by people I love and respect who are on various ends of the gun debate spectrum. But there is one thing that definitely gets me and that is when people casually say they are offering up their “thoughts and prayers”.
To pray to the God I know as revealed in the person and life of Jesus almost always leads to a call from Him for action on our part. It is not something done lightly or flippantly. There is power in the name of Jesus, and often that power calls on us to act when we pray in His name.
In the Christian faith, the Lord that you pray to, through, and by when you offer up thoughts and prayers is the same One that taught us to pray that His kingdom would come and His will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Our prayers are offered up to the loving Father Who leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost one, done through the power of the Spirit that perfects strength through weakness, and the mediation of the Son Who prays for those who are nailing Him to a cross. Praying for another’s comfort and protection through this triune God very may, and often does, lead to us hear the Crucified one say “I literally put you here ‘for such a time as this‘, I will work through you to provide comfort and protection. So go!”
Two quotes comes to mind when I think of this. The first is from C.S. Lewis
It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort; it’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.”⏤ C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis (Dec. 3, 1959)
The second is from Søren Kierkegaard.
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.⏤ Søren Kierkegaard, An Occasional Discourse: On the Occasion of a Confession: Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
The Father has a nasty habit of changing us and directing our attention to things we weren’t asking to do when we earnestly turn to Him in prayer. Earthly comfort often focuses on “God please do this so I don’t have to do anything, change, or get involved in their messy grief and hurt.” The prayer for heavenly comfort calls those who seek it to desperately long for and try to live in the kingdom of Heaven that is already but not yet fully, here.
After all, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The living God doesn’t answer our prayer based on our agendas, He constantly shapes those who earnestly pray to Him to His agenda.
I can’t say what His Spirit will lead us each to do. I’m just saying when we lift up our “thoughts and prayers” on behalf of those who are hurting we need to be prepared for the great Comforter to call us to be the ones to comfort the hurting and change the possibility of others being hurt … and … maybe change our political agendas.