Make Prayer Your First Reaction to a Tragedy

Make Prayer Your First Reaction to a Tragedy February 18, 2018

The shooting on February 14 in Parkland, Florida, is heartbreaking. It is tragic to watch the decay that has happened in our world. On a much larger scale than any other generation before us, taking the lives of others has become a choice some people make when faced with difficulties. Seventeen people were killed from the shooting, including both high school students and staff, making it the third most deadly school shooting America has ever seen.

Public shootings have increased over the years with the deadliest within the last few years. It seems like no times goes by before we hear about another attack or tragedy happening somewhere around the world. Not infrequently the neighbors and families of the people who commit such shocking acts of violence say things like, “I just can’t believe it. He seemed so normal. I never imagined they were capable of something like this.” Where have we come?

With all the events going on around the world, the Lord’s coming may be closer than we know. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves…unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good” (2 Timothy 3:1-3). In other words, the closer we get to the Lord’s return, the more evil there will be in the world. And this is what we see. There is a spiritual battle going on all around us and the intensity of warfare is becoming much more difficult.

But how do we respond to it? What do we do as God’s people in times like this? First Thessalonians 5:5–6 says, “You are all sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” These last days are days to be vigilant, to be aware and to be seeking God. Ephesians 5:14-17 says it this way: “ ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” And in Mark, Jesus says, “Take heed, watch and pray.”

Make Prayer Your First Reaction to a Tragedy - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

We have a call from the Lord, not to put our head in the sand, but to watch, to be aware, to understand, to be engaged. We are not to be the ones on the sidelines, or the ones turning our heads away and hiding in entertainment and escape. We are called to be the ones in the middle of the battle. How? Through prayer. Instead of talking about prayer, or thinking about loss. Let us be aware and pray.

Instead of having a sermon on Sunday about dealing with the shooting, what about thinking about changing the service so that there is one hour of prayer during the service to relate to God and cry out to Him about this generation and the needs so blatant before us. He asked us to pray. Church is not about us but it is about us coming before God. He is the audience, not us. Let us engage with Him about these things.

Think about Jacob in the Bible. He spent 20 years trying to make things work his way (see Genesis 25-32). He found a way to get the birthright, the blessing, the livestock. But he didn’t have to waste all those years of his life in arrogance, pride and an independent spirit of self-sufficiency thinking: I am able to do it. I am smart. I don’t have to wait for God to tell me this and that. I can get it done. He was depending on his own strength, and God allowed him to run the course.

But then Jacob comes to the place where he is confronted with the fact that his own home, his parents, his mother are all gone. His father-in-law is no longer in the picture. Jacob had sent ahead of himself his wealth, his servants, his wives and children on his way back to where he grew up, not knowing if he would see them again. Now everyone is gone. He is now all alone, and he faces the pain, the desperation. And God allows that. But once Jacob came to that place where there was no way he could handle it, he says: “Unless You bless me, I will not leave You.”

If we don’t learn by making choices, if we don’t learn to fast and cry out to God for God to break our hearts, if we don’t learn to inherit the pain of Christ when He said, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” He will allow us to come to a place where we need Him and there is no other answer (Matthew 26:40).

If you saw the movie The Passion of the Christ, you can see Him sweating blood out of agony. I never imagined something could so powerfully portray that scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, and there you see the disciples sleeping. They could not enter into the agony, the pain of the Lord. And this is where you and I must make our decision. Will you honestly pray, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God” as Bob Pierce once prayed long ago?

Genuine Prayer - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

When it comes to the things of our Lord, is there a place where the Lord can work in your heart that your heart is actually hurting? And I don’t mean your own personal crisis. Instead, can the Lord work in your heart for the crisis of this world, this crisis for them to know the love of God and what that really means for their lives? Genuine prayer comes out of a heart that feels the need.

So as we’re faced with these tragedies that touch so many lives, let us ask ourselves: When was the last time we spent significant time on our faces before the Lord, crying out for the people in our families, our work places, our communities, our nations?

Find ways to make prayer a priority in your life. Make prayer your first reaction to tragedy. It is so vitally important that we are diligent to engage in prayer. Don’t be afraid of entering into someone else’s loss. Get a few people together in your circle of influence and commit to spending one evening a week in prayer together on behalf of a world who is desperate for a Savior who loves them. Prayer is the physical act of talking to the living God and a means we have to engage in the spiritual battle surrounding us.

Can you ask the Lord to break your heart and help you to enter into the pain of Christ for these heartbreaking events?

For practical steps toward a disciplined prayer life, order the booklet Learning to Pray.

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