As I look out my window today and take a moment to reflect, my heart is heavy and sad at the state of conditions playing out in the world today.  So much is happening and unfolding right in front of us, but either we ignore it, reason it away or we have become desensitized to it.  It fails to be resolved.  However, there is too much weight attached to most issues that we must not sweep them under the rug, but instead I implore us to pray for an answer.

Case in point:  Right now, we are experiencing a high rise in mass shootings.  These mass shootings are occurring more often and continue to be a growing issue whose impact affects many.  We are no closer to resolving this than we were when it first began.  Why?  Because we are quick to jump to conclusions as to why this is happening more and more; thus, voicing our opinion without even taking a good look at what is behind this issue. Yes, this is an inexcusable means to get a certain message across mixed with a person’s desire to cause harm to others.  No one is denying this and frankly, there are no explanations for this, but people feel compelled to comment and not always in the most tactful or caring way or we waste time pointing fingers at the opposing side.  Shame on those, who take advantage of a horrendous incident such as this and use it as a talking point about their political agenda or create a forum to express their hatred of others; thus, in their mind justifying why this happened.  This is not the time to incite anger, but rather to show kindness, sympathy and compassion to all who are suffering through this trial.  We fail when we look at ourselves and how we are affected, rather than showing the “milk” of humanity by responding to the needs of those in harm’s way.  A certain CBS executive made an ill-timed deeply insensitive comment in which she mentioned that “country music fans often are Republican ‘gun-toters’” demonstrating her deficit in the use of tact, as well as, highlighting her obviously fueled anger when she spewed forth her hatred.  One might object and say that she was making a point in which gun control needs to be looked at, but this is not the forum for such a statement.  Her derogatory comment is fueled by hate and lack of common decency that is my point.  This is what I will be addressing in my next blog.

We also largely fail because instead of working together we are tearing each other apart.  We say that we seek help or answers, but we refuse to go to God for help first.  Let me ask you this:  how many people get down on their knees and pray to God for help?  Why must we continue to let this problem escalate and grow?  Shouldn’t we be seeking all possible means for resolution and then go with the most viable?  We need to break down this issue and look at all the components, before we can move ahead.  Today’s blog will be centered on our ability to work together and our need for prayer.

I have heard many comments on social media stating that thoughts and prayers do not carry much, if any, weight in their sentiment.  I totally disagree.  We need prayer now more than ever!  So, how do we convey this to a lost world who does not know God?  We use reason and exhibit respect to one another and explain why we are so convicted by representing Christ.

We must use our common sense when we speak.  There is a time to speak and a time to listen.  There is a time to hold our tongue until we can send a message across without having to fuel it with our anger or disgust.  In James 1:19 we are given some very sage advice to follow: “This you know, my beloved brethren, everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”  However, some fail to see the wisdom expressed in this advice and proceed like a fool to speak rashly.  Proverbs 15:1 backs this up when it is stated:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Colossians 4:6 tells us how one should speak during life’s troubling moments: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” 

Knowing when to speak is important, but how you speak is just as important of a skill.  Everywhere we look nowadays we see division.  Everyone has someone or knows someone who is openly in disagreement with someone else.  Hostile words are uttered, opinions proudly stated, and nothing is getting resolved. Few are trying to reconcile with one another, but most are sticking to their guns and standing firm on their positions.  No one seems to be listening and few encourage others to iron out their differences.  As a nation we are becoming more disgruntled, more vocal, apathetic, and forgetting what the word compassion means.  It is no longer in our dictionary of words to utilize.  Do we need a refresher on what the word means?  Compassion is defined as being sympathetic and concerned for the suffering or misfortunes of others.  Why are we refusing to be compassionate especially when it is the most vital component during trials like this?

Jesus had a lot to say about our need to be compassionate; after all He showed compassion to us and promised us He would be with us during our trials.  In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 we see this in action:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  This is a command for us to follow and live by.  God is a loving God and His love is unfailing.

It isn’t too hard to be there for someone else.  Open your hearts and minds to this concept as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:8 when he directs us: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”    We have been given this gift to offer others in their time of trouble. Use it and possibly give peace of mind to someone in need of comfort.

Take a moment and think about this verse in Colossians 3:12 and then act on it: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  Our tongues can become our worst weapon and we need to discern when to use it for good and not for harm.  People are mourning at this very moment, people in need of comfort and care, trying to place trust in themselves or someone else again.  Hear their plea for help and respond.  Take a moment and pray for peace, pray for comfort and strength to heal them and for forgiveness to come one day. This is a time to step out on faith and reach out to others.  Please do not turn a blind eye.  Your compassion can bring a moment of peace to someone else.  Do not use it sparingly or begrudgingly, but rather lavishly bestow it towards others.

Reasoning and compassion are very important ingredients needed for understanding which can lead to healing, however, the underlining root of all of this is prayer.  Please allow me to expound. The Bible states many times that we must bring it all to God in prayer:  the good, the bad, the difficult and whatever appears to be the unforgiveable.  We are so blessed to have the Living God willing to listen to us when we call out for help, yet we try everything else first and then when we run out of ideas, we might turn to Him and pray.  This goes against His very word and it is insulting to say the least.

We forge ahead with our egos and are determined to take control of this matter and find our answers our own way.  Notice how God is left out of the equation?  He is treated as an afterthought, if He is even acknowledged to begin with.  Let’s take a moment and explore some basic principles and strategies for prayer and try to understand the reasons behind it.

First, what is prayer and why should we pray?  Prayer is observed and practiced for multiple reasons.  It is used to praise (worship) our Lord, to give thanks, to ask for forgiveness, to verbalize our concerns, to stay aligned with God and, as in this instance, it is when we present a request for help.  We do not pray only in times of trouble, but it is a tool we use through all seasons to maintain our relationship with God.  Praying keeps the lines of communication open and clear.

When we look at Psalm 34:15 we now can better understand why God answers us.  It is not because we are His favorite for He is impartial.  It is not because we deserve it for we owe Him and not the other way around.  He gave us life, we did not create Him!  Let’s examine why He answers prayers.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”

It is due to His mercy (one of His character traits) that He hears us.  We did nothing to deserve or earn it, but He grants it to those who are righteous – obedient – godly – blameless.  I do not know about you but that humbles me because I fall short without Him.  Yes, I admit that I do not measure up to His standards, but because of His mercy and grace, He hears this wretched sinner’s pleas.

When we follow Him and when we encounter obstacles, adversity that comes in all shapes and sizes, we have a “go to” plan.  We are instructed to call on Him, seek His counsel, His infinite wisdom and then we learn to wait for His answer.  I know waiting is difficult because we expect answers immediately, but that is another shortcoming of ours as well.  When we are impatient it is because we bow down to our ego and our needs and feel these needs must be addressed asap.

When do we pray?  At all times.  There is always an opportunity to pray.  Just like a plant needs water to survive, we cannot survive without God.  He is our strength, our courage, our restoration, our refuge, our provision and so much more.  He asks us to come to Him in prayer and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to pray continuously.  Jesus even gives us an example in Luke 11:2-4 as how to pray and affirms this further in Ephesians 6:18.

“Pray without ceasing.”

            “So, He said to them, ‘When you pray say:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

            “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we see the reason for praying and we can witness what prayers can produce:  which is forgiveness of our sins and answers for our requests.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

1 John 5:14 teaches us that God does answer us (in His perfect timing) and our prayers, but it must be according to His will.  Let’s look at this verse a little more closely.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Tie this in with Psalm 5:3 and we need to keep in mind that if this is according to His will, then our request will be answered.  However, we need to believe in that and anticipate His response.  We need to believe that He is working on our behalf.  We must exhibit faith.

“My voice shall hear in the morning, Oh Lord.  In the morning I will direct it to you, and I will look up.”

Keep in mind, however, that we need to make our requests known with the purest of motives.  As James 4:3 points out, we need to examine our intentions behind the request.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” 

Why are we really asking this?  Is it to follow the desires of the world or is it to fulfill His will?  Do we aim for our own pleasure or are we seeking to fulfill the new desires He has placed upon our hearts?  His desires are dressed as opportunities to help others in need.  Seeking to meet the needs of the hungry or disadvantaged for example, would possibly fall under the umbrella of His will unless we are looking to make a profit or material gain from this, and if that is the case then it most likely is intended for our own selfish pleasure or desire and not His will.

So, what is the obvious answer to this issue or any issue we are facing?  Take it to the Lord in prayer just like the hymn states.  Ask for wisdom, ask for peace, but check yourself first and determine why you are making this request.  Trust that if you follow Him, He will hear you and respond accordingly.  When you receive an answer test it against the scriptures to make sure it is from Him.  Wait for confirmation or validation and then proceed in the direction He sends you.  He is in control and only He can guide us on how to proceed.  Do not act out or refuse His wise counsel but embrace it and then act on it.

Yes, we are living in very volatile times of which none of us know what is just around the corner.  Do not spread hate or ignorance, but vow to spread love to one another, hold someone’s hand when they are scared, hug someone to comfort them, pray for and with them, let them know someone cares. Be the example Jesus showed us.  God gave us the milk of kindness for a reason and now it is needed more than ever.  Live out your faith and move in love.  God Bless!