There are exactly two ways to completely ruin your hope for any sort of sophisticated humanity, and I have had the pleasure of experiencing both of them. The first is to work for a customer service call center. You can watch Fox News until your eyes dried out, and then take part in a Westboro Baptist picket rally, and you still wouldn’t know as well as a call center employee how much the people in our country are straight on a path to hell. Do I seem a bit jaded? If you’re looking for something else you could do to absolutely dismantle any positive perception you have of the human race, the second worst thing is to read the comments on controversial Facebook threads. And that, my friends, is the brilliant segway I chose to direct us to the point of this article.
I recently found myself (once again) perusing Facebook and I stumbled upon a shared meme that a popular Christian musician posted that read, “Pray for Nepal, Pray for Baltimore” and featured a nice-looking background.
“That was a while ago, wasn’t it? Oh well. Right on”, I thought, as I tapped the ever so famous Like button, showing my undying support for the cause of the picture. Next came a critical mistake: I clicked the comments button. Most comments were nice and positive and said something deep like “amen” and featured a little image of some hands mimicking prayer. Others, more annoyingly, featured people arguing their professional opinions about racism, but there was a particular comment that caught my attention.
Or instead of talking to yourself hoping the tooth fairy will do something you actually do something yourself??
Shots fired. Even though the comment was offensive, just as the person intended it to be, I also found it to be pretty intriguing. Perhaps scrolling down could lead to more interesting discussion. Reading further down, though, there was the same old boring ‘Religion vs. Science’ banter that included name-calling and what some call “trolling." Wait, wasn’t the picture referring to disasters and social injustice? How’d we get onto The Big Bang and the book of Genesis? Damn you, people of Facebook.
What I found to be interesting about the person’s comment was the potential truth that was hidden within the snark. What if, at some level, Christians do use the idea of prayer as a defense mechanism to stay out of being in potentially uncomfortable situations or to avoid being involved in another person’s hurt? Is it right to automatically resort to pray for occurrences like Nepal and Baltimore and always just stop there? And is it possible that we, as Christians, should be pressed to do more than just pray? The Bible is very clear about the importance and benefit of being constantly in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6, just to name a couple), so there’s no question that we should be doing it (also, there is great, observable evidence of how prayer is a great thing for people, both cognitively and emotionally), but the thought of prayer being a way to settle is very scary.
The purpose of this article is not to point fingers at people who are doing it wrongly, and it’s definitely not to call out the musician that posted the meme, it’s more of an awkward way to rant and regretfully reflect on instances that I’ve observed myself (and other people, too) using prayer as a cop-out. When I read that person’s comment, even as trite as it seemed, it immediately made me think of two different categories of times that I have abused the idea of prayer:
1. When I have told people that I would pray for them followed by not praying for them at all (usually forgetfully).
2. When I have been around people in need, whether it was physical, spiritual, monetary, or otherwise, and opted to pray for them followed by no further discussion about their life needs and no follow up.
For both points - Could I not have stayed a few minutes longer to hear them out and at least gave them a communal experience, if not provided forms of solutions or advice (Hebrews 10:24-25)? It’s kind of disgusting to think about, but it’s true, and I know that I’m not alone in this.
The Lord knows how I desire to be a prayerful person. I talk to Jesus as often as I can think of it (the emo on my shoulder says he’s the only one that truly gets me (it’s not true, my wife also gets me(if you’re reading this, LOOVE YOU!))). I’ve never been labeled a “prayer warrior” and I’m not sure if I want to, but dammit, I want us to be a people known for how we help the world however we can (1 John 3:18). This is obviously where I play the consolation card and say that I’m the worst at this, call myself a hypocrite , and then go on some parade to change, right? That may be what I feel like right now as I mull over that Facebook comment, but honestly, not much will probably change. Not looking for sympathy or shock, it’s just an honest prediction. Hopefully ranting on the blog portion of this website will implant some motivation in my posterior cingulate cortex (look it up (thanks Science Mike)) and also maybe stir up someone else that may have had these dormant feelings as well. I’m just throwing something about this subject out there to see if it sticks. Sure, it’s unconventional, maybe some discussion can stem from it. Let’s talk about it. Argue with me, that’s fine. But don’t you leave a comment, because I won’t read it...Yes, yes I will, but I’ll hate every second of it.