When I saw Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, had been shot and killed by a white police officer in Charleston, my first response was wrong.
When I heard about the mess surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I didn’t have the right initial response then either.
If I’m honest, the first action I usually take after every significant global, national, local or personal event is mistaken.
It’s not that I lash out in misdirected anger or refuse to follow the facts of the case. Instead, my first response is always to say something to anyone except the One who can actually do something about it.
I want to tweet something or post on Facebook or write a blog post or do anything—and everything—except pray.
Praying seems so passive, so weak, so much of a responsibility shift. But that’s kinda the point.
It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about issues of the day and do so in a Christian manner through normal conversations and on social media. That should absolutely be part of our response. Just not first. That’s the place for prayer.
It’s so counter-intuitive to the way the world supposedly works and our own human nature. Yet, it’s so important and life-changing to the way the world actually works and our new nature in Christ.
Reading through the time of the exile in the Old Testament, you are immersed in a chaotic scene populated by world powers and charismatic, but ungodly leaders.
These kings and rulers have conquered the nation of Israel. Jerusalem is in ruin. The streets are full of bramble and broken down buildings. The walls are in shambles. And the people are away in captivity.
But there were people crying out to God. They were confessing their sins. They were calling on His name. They were begging Him to help. And God acts.
Ezra 1:1 says God “put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom” to allow the Jewish people to return and rebuild the temple.
Nehemiah, serving as a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, hears of Jerusalem’s state and begins to pray, asking God to redeem His people and to grant him favor and the opportunity to speak to the king (Nehemiah 1:4-11).
God, in His sovereignty, directed the hearts and actions of unbelieving world leaders as a response to the prayers of His people and to bring about His plan.
It can be so easy to read those biblical accounts and dismiss their relevance today. We trust that God directed the heart of King Cyrus, but fail to believe He can to the same with President Obama.
That is demonstrated in our rush to action and failure to pray. We think we can change minds and direct hearts with our eloquence and reasoning. We believe we will have just the right argument to sway others. Our eloquence, reasoning and arguments have no lasting power apart from the work of God, apart from prayer.
This does not mean we do not speak and do not act. Nehemiah prayed for several days. But then, he spoke to the king when God presented him with the opportunity and acted on the king’s granting him the ability to go and do something.
We should not be silent when we see oppression, injustice and immorality, but our first words about them should be to God.