“Our thoughts and prayers”

Once again another mass killing with guns in the USA, this time in Las Vegas.

Last Sunday night the day of the mass shooting, I was in church here in Luton and we were looking at the weapons which are formed against believers and non believers which are designed to destroy and to kill. We left the service with a better understanding and a determination to be vigilant and to watch in prayer for each other.

That evening in the USA, a retired accountant who had for a number of days booked himself into a hotel with an arsenal of high velocity weapons and enough bullets to kill many hundreds of people waited for the moment when the crowd attending an open air concert at the back of the hotel had gathered. Then without any warning he started shooting and shooting indiscriminately into the crowd, stopping only to reload and to get another gun. Apparently, he had more than forty guns some modified to operate as semi automatic weapons.

It was later reported that the shooting lasted for less than ten minutes and only came to an end when he turned one of his guns on himself. Nearly 60 people lay dead, badly cut up by the many bullets which sprayed the crowd with more than 500 people wounded, some critically.

Not surprisingly the news soon travelled across the world and America is stopped in its tracks once again having to respond to the latest atrocity.

Every time such an atrocity takes place in America a number of responses can be predicted: we must do something about guns; we must ban certain calibre of guns; we must make it difficult for people to buy guns; guns don’t kill people, its people who kill people; it’s our constitutional right to carry a gun.

One other response especially from leaders especially the president is: “our thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and some add with their family.

I pray often and daily for I know God answers prayer. Jesus told me that I must ask, seek and knock. That men ought always to pray and not faint.

Through prayer I offload unto God, get clarity from God and get direction from God. It’s not the eloquence of my prayer that matters or the many words I use but what really matters is the one who is hearing one’s prayer. The Baal prophets prayed and prayed from morning to evening and nothing happened. Elijah prayed a few words and his prayer was immediately answered for all to see.

Idols cannot hear. Fictitious gods cannot hear. Prayer in the name of The Lord Jesus is the key. Peter and John prayed for a crippled man who was placed outside the temple in Jerusalem to beg. One day these two ministers healed him of his condition and were lauded by the people for they knew a notable miracle had been done to that man that day.

Peter and John refused the plaudits instead made it clear that it was faith in the name of Jesus that made the man perfectly whole. I believe in the God who answers prayer so I am committed to prayer.

Notwithstanding, too often when there is an atrocity the phrase “our thoughts and prayers” is I believe euphemism for doing nothing. The shooting in America will probably not bring any change so it’s just a matter of time till the next atrocity. Most worryingly though, is the trend that mass murderers are killing more and more people as if each must kill more than the previous.

The phrase thoughts and prayers is also true for some churches, ministers and believers. Prayer is substitute for doing something. There is an issue that needs fixing or dealing with and it’s in our powers to fix the problem many are inclined to do nothing.

How do I know this? I know this because even if God spoke we are inclined to stop doing what we started if there is no immediate results; forgetting that it took God six days to create the world and rested on the seventh day.

Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and there they stood at the shore of the Red Sea crying to Moses that they were doomed because Pharaoh’s army was in hot pursuit. Moses turns to God to find out what to do. God tells him to go forward, that is, to head towards the Red Sea. The Red Sea is parted and the people cross over on dry land.

Too many leaders would have called a prayer meeting right there and then forgetting that for 400 years the people had been praying and it was time to listen to God and go forward.

I am amazed how experienced ministers will call for a time of prayer at a time of difficulties and yet be unwilling to do anything even after God has spoken.

Faith without works, says James, is dead. There is no greater expression of faith than prayer but we must act after we have prayed. King Jehoshaphat is troubled at the news that an enemy was planning to invade his country and said he must surrender for Judah was no match for him.

The king goes into the temple and prays. An unnamed prophet gives him a word from God that he need not fight for the “battle is the Lord’s”. King Jehoshaphat went home and told the singers to get ready to sing ahead of the army.

On the night Jesus was arrested he prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane but as soon as he got through he got up and moved on to fulfil the will of God.

In conclusion, I believe in the importance of prayer especially instant prayers. However, it must not be used as euphemism for doing nothing.

Luke the writer of the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts begins Acts with these words: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach”. Acts 1:1.

God is a doing God. The patriarchs, prophets, the apostles and Christ himself were doers of the word but they prayed also.

Our platform is the world and our congregation the people.

The Lord’s servant

Lloyd Denny