A chill wind outside, happy hearts, eager souls, restless youngsters, scribbles on a sermon outline, and a good ol’ Texan preacher filling the sanctuary with a message that penetrated time and space from Heaven to a small country town of 600—First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. This past Sunday morning as many of us here in Texas were cozying up to our loved ones in a warm sanctuary, 26 souls journeyed into eternity to meet their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the gunpoint of an evil soul.
As we watched in horror, embraced our loved ones in a renewed appreciation of their presence, and fell to our knees in petition to God the Father to comfort those hurting, the dark shadows of the world unsheathed their metaphorical knives to slay once more. However, the victims that they targeted weren’t the lives of other humans but instead the prayers offered to the families of the victims of the shooting.
Many of these prayer-bashing ‘keyboard warriors’ were atheists, such as Dr. Lawrence M. Krausse of Arizona State University and Wil Wheaton of ‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ fame, while others might be agnostics or religious themselves to one degree or another. The characteristic that they all shared, however, was an antipathy towards prayer and by extension towards Christians who were offering those prayers.
Their stated objections were more than clear—in most cases relayed in a 3rd grader’s profane and as a result necessarily limited vocabulary, frozen in the carbonite of our day: the internets:
There are numerous jabs disguised as arguments in these responses that these predominantly atheists assume and believe, and they deserve to be fleshed out and addressed.
1) God does not exist
Most importantly, the core argument that these tweets seem to share is the belief that God does not exist and so we’re wasting our breath praying to a vacuum with no power to stop anything. The irony of this argument is that it’s made by individuals who profess an adherence to science yet their bias is to ignore observational evidence of God when it contradicts their own preconceived conclusions. By their own actions they demonstrate the very “dogmatism” and belief over evidence that they accuse theists of engaging in.
It has been said often but one only has to look at the macro and micro complexity of the Earth and the universe in order to see that not only does a Creator God exist, but that he is powerful and loving. More on this in future articles dealing with science and Scripture—this topic is an article in-and-of itself, but Paul said it best in the book of Romans:
“There are things about God that people cannot see—his eternal power and all that makes him God. But since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to understand. They are made clear in what God has made. So people have no excuse for the evil they do. People knew God, but they did not honor him as God, and they did not thank him. Their ideas were all useless. There was not one good thought left in their foolish minds. They said they were wise, but they became fools. Instead of honoring the divine greatness of God, who lives forever, they traded it for the worship of idols—things made to look like humans, who get sick and die, or like birds, animals, and snakes.” ~ Romans 1:20-23
And the Psalmist shares with us more succinctly:
“The heavens tell about the glory of God. The skies announce what his hands have made.” ~ Psalm 19:1
2) Prayer doesn’t work
The antagonists to prayer then claim that prayer doesn’t work. This is a belief that’s founded in extreme hubris, because it assumes that the atheist knows every event in every human’s life in all of history—to be a clairvoyant of billions of people. This claim is actually detrimental to their atheistic position because it’s so absurd on its face that they are shown to not be in possession of a rational mind, the Wizard’s curtain has been unfurled.
Even when we set aside the hubris and obvious absurdity of such a claim, it becomes clear to anyone that all that one needs is one example of prayer working in order to dash this conclusion against the rocks. I’ll offer such an example to show that prayer does indeed work, and in such a powerful way.
When I was growing up, I had no experience in a nuclear family. My mother suffers from schizophrenia and my father divorced her after 11 years of marriage when I was 5. I have pleasant memories of my childhood, and some wildly fun ones of my mother when she lived with us, so not all was terrible during those times of my life. Four years later and my father married a Filipino woman, who at first blush was very nice and welcoming of us. It wasn’t too long that my siblings and myself found ourselves being physically and emotionally abused by our new stepmother. She would threaten to kill us kids, chased my older brother into the bathroom with a butcher knife, ripped up all of my stuffed animals with a butcher knife, threw glasses at us, broke dishes on the table during dinner, and much more.
One day when it was only my little sister and myself living at home then, I decided to call Child Protective Services on my abusive stepmother and told them what was happening. Well CPS came and met with my sister, myself, and my stepmother, interviewed us and asked my stepmother a series of questions. Like a switch she changed her demeanor to be ever so sweet and caring, putting up a front for the CPS officer. Child Protective Services left our home finding no cause in what I reported, siding with my stepmother, and there on out my sister and I feared for our lives even more. During these years of abuse, we told our father what was happening but he didn’t believe us, we were left to fend for ourselves.
Four years into this physically and emotionally abusive home and I left for youth camp with the church that I was a member of ever since I was born. At the end of the camp week we were singing praise songs when all of a sudden all of the pain, despair, and stress that I had been suppressing the last four years just gushed to the surface and I fell on my knees. I prayed to God that I couldn’t do this anymore, that I needed Him to save my soul and deliver me from my hell. I needed His deliverance from my stepmom. I didn’t know how much longer I had, how much more abuse I could take. It all seemed hopeless, not even my father would believe me about the abuse—I had no one else, and there was no end in sight. That night I gave my life to Christ, my life was reborn, and I had hope that I never had before.
Camp week went on a little longer and came to a close, like all of them before me. The church bus made its way into the church parking lot and I waited for my father to arrive and pick me up. I waited and waited, and after a while I saw my dad’s 1986 station wagon driving down. The door flung open, I threw in my gear, sat down in the front seat, and the first thing that I father said to me was: “I’m divorcing your stepmother.” My eyes swelled up with so many tears and disbelief, at last after so many years of petitioning him and silent cries my sister and I have been delivered from the abuse. The Lord answered my prayer, to deliver me from the hell I had been living in, and set me on a path of healing and success in life.
This is but one story of God answering prayer, from one person on an Earth full of 7 billion people. Yet it’s more than enough to empirically prove that the conclusion that prayers are not answered is simply rubbish, and such an assertion is nothing more than an expression of denial and an effort to bring those who believe in prayer into obfuscation.
3) Prayer is inaction
The other thread to unravel in these responses is that the antagonist to prayer conflates prayer with inaction, and this is partly said out of ignorance of why people pray but also its birthed out of a veil to disguise their political agenda. What the atheists and their anti-prayer cohorts fail to understand, and ironically in the midst of their assertion of intellectual superiority, is that Christians and those of faith don’t pray to avoid action but that prayer IS action. It isn’t prayer to petition God to change gun laws, but a prayer asking God to surround the hurting families of the shooting with His love, comfort, and peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s humble action in its purest form, because we are asking the only being in the universe to do what we cannot: to change hearts and comfort where we cannot reach.
This is why we as Christians pray for safety before driving, pray for guidance and wisdom as we counsel someone, pray for the right words to speak before we serve a homeless man dinner, why we pray for clarity of mind and focus before we take a test that we studied hard for, etc. It’s why the soldier prays before going into battle, to keep his hand sturdy and his mind alert.
In some events prayer is to petition God to do what we cannot do alone, and in other events prayer is to humbly ask God for guidance and strength as we do act ourselves. As Stephen Miller explained quite well:
4) To Caesar be all glory and praise
It goes without saying that one of the driving forces behind the bashing of prayer and those that do pray after horrific events is a political agenda, specifically to ban guns in the United States. Have you noticed that it’s only after a shooting that the militant prayer antagonists come out bashing prayer? When multiple tornadoes tore through Dallas, TX the night after Christmas 2015, prayers were offered for days and weeks—yet not a peep was heard from any of these anti-prayer proselytizers. If prayer truly didn’t work in their mind then one would think that they would have the same anti-prayer message after every horrific event that people prayed.
This is not the case though, because the angst against prayer only matters when the disaster narrative aligns with their political ideology of being against guns. It’s a front, to be honest, using a horrific tragedy and feigning incredulity towards the loss of life in order to push their political ideology of banning guns.
The strange irony in this though is that while atheists bash Christians who pray to the God who created the entire universe for comfort on those that are hurting, they offer complete devotion and worship to a government made of men. A body of men who cannot even pass coherent laws, let alone create the entire universe and space-time itself out of nothing. That is nonsensical to me.
For many of us who remember, as news broke of the shooting in Sutherland Springs we were transported back to April 20, 1999 when 12 students and a teacher were gunned down at Columbine High School in Colorado, the worst school shooting up until then. I was in high school then in my senior year, but I remember it well. Kids like me were ushered into eternity before they could even wear their cap and gown, our never-known friends just a couple of states away. What I remember most though is the outpouring of prayer that gave comfort to everyone hurting, the testimonies of bravery and martyrdom for Christ, and the souls brought to Christ as a result.
So do not tell me that prayer does not work and that it is inaction, I will have none of it. Prayer is more real than the keys that I’m tapping right now, and holds with it the power that brought the entire universe into existence.