Why do Christians keep offering prayers every time there is an act of terror, civil unrest or a natural disaster? To many in our world, praying to God at times like these seems foolish and even inappropriate. To a Christian, however, prayer is the first, and most appropriate action we can take. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, we find ourselves in the actual state in which all people exist: helpless and in need of saving. And so we pray.
We pray because we are commanded to pray. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
We pray because we know that God always answers our prayers (though not always in the way we expect). [Jesus said] “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23) Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
We pray because without our Lord we are helpless. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)
And we pray to give thanks to God for His blessings and mercy. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)
We ask the One who rules all things to help us in times of trouble. We ask God, our Father, in Jesus’ name, to be with the injured and their families. We ask Him to be with all those who are helping them, such as first responders and volunteers. And we pray for the leaders of government whom God has placed over us, so that they may act in wisdom for the benefit of all.
Prayer is, without a doubt, the first and most appropriate action for a Christian in a time of great distress. Other opportunities for action will come. We may volunteer to assist after a tragedy. We may offer donations to help. We may help to enact laws. We may serve our country and our fellow citizens in the armed forces. But first, we pray. We pray, knowing that God, our Heavenly Father, has already saved us from the worst tragedy of all—the eternal punishment for own sins. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, volunteered to step into our place, to live the perfect life demanded of each of us for us and to die in payment for all our sins. We pray and we continue to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Rev. Paul Fries