"You come to the conclusion this is just absolutely pure evil," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, his hands clutched over his chest. (NBC News)
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Evil. When we see the news of *another* mass shooting we know deep in our soul that evil is at work. That it’s fighting us. That it’s against us.
But when I looked at the picture of the shooter I didn’t see “evil.” I saw amber colored eyes. I saw brown hair like mine. I saw a young man that has been through some serious hurt in the last couple months. I did not see evil. So how is it possible for us to collectively know in our gut that evil is at work and yet, while there is no excuse for the choices of this young man, that he himself is not the “pure evil” that Governor Scott was describing.
That’s quite the paradox.
And yet, God’s Word, well adept at helping us embrace paradoxes, makes it clear. Our battle is not against people. People are not the problem…evil is the problem. Sin is the problem. Satan is the problem. (1 Peter 5:8)
God’s Word also makes it clear that He has not left us defenseless. Check out “The Armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-20. I love how it tells us about our enemy, about our defensive armor and our offensive weapon, God’s Word. But I think it’s very interesting that Paul doesn’t end this section with… “so stand around and read God’s Word.”
How does it end? “… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication (pray) for all the saints, and also [pray] for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)
However, as I scrolled through my social media feeds yesterday morning, I started to see things that I’ve also become numb to: “Prayers aren’t working.” “Stop praying.” “Prayers mean nothing.” While I agree that something more than prayer needs to happen around these situations, which I will not discuss here, I have to say that telling people to STOP “praying” is pure foolishness.
To be fair, maybe these people are not familiar with the transforming power of prayer that takes place in the Holy Spirit through the name of Jesus in the Throne Room of our Heavenly Father.
But to say that “prayer isn’t working” is akin to saying “breathing isn’t working.” Physically, we breathe because it is necessary for life and we do it without ceasing. Spiritually, prayer is necessary for spiritual life and we are called to do it with ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
And if Scripture, from beginning to end, is calling you to pray…which is essentially just talking with God…who…or should I ask…what…spiritual force is tempting you not to pray? It certainly isn’t Good…or God. If not, then the only option is Evil.
I remember a worksheet from my second grade Sunday School class. It had a picture of a big ship with the side cut out of it so you could see what was happening inside it. It was drawn in such a way that you could tell it was sinking. It showed people on their knees praying and other people scooping water out with buckets and nailing the boards of the ship hull back together.
The question was posed to us kiddos…what would you do in this situation? Would you pray or would actively do something about the problem?
I remember thinking in my young mind…why is it either/or?
We serve a God of both/and.
We can pray AND scoop water.
We can pray AND serve families affected by this tragedy.
We can pray AND share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with the shooter and his family.
We can pray AND share the love and forgiveness of Jesus in OUR families!
We can pray AND experience the transformation power of the Holy Spirit making us new…giving us a new way of thinking about ourselves.
We can pray AND share the transformation power of the Holy Spirit with others…the only way we can “fight” evil. We fight evil…darkness…with Light. With the Holy Spirit. With the Light of the World. (John 8:12)
So please, don’t tell people to “stop praying.” You would never ask someone to “stop breathing.”
But if you are tempted to tell someone to stop praying…or if you, after all the hurt and heartache, are tempted to stop praying, then please come be a part of the St. Peter’s family.
In conclusion, as Oswald Chambers has said, “Prayer doesn’t lead to a greater work. Prayer IS the greater work.” Why? Because it calls on the Greatest Power in the Universe to do what you, yourself, cannot do on your own.
So in the face of tragedies like what happened in Parkland Florida….pray. Hear from God. Compare it His Word. Pray His Word. Act on what He says. Go serve others. Go fight for peace. Go share Jesus Christ, The Light of the World. His Light is the only Light that can defeat darkness.
For them…because of Him,