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Do Thoughts and Prayers Even Matter?

Following recent mass shootings, I’ve seen dozens of posts stating that “thoughts and prayers” are a cop-out; That we need laws and to DO SOMETHING, DO ANYTHING to prevent such devastation from happening again.

It’s a month into high school, and we’ve already received four calls from the principal about (unsubstantiated) violent threats, and news that a smart and dynamic boy committed suicide.

Our society is broken. Kids in America have more stuff and activities than any generation in history…and they are killing themselves and each other. There are so many people who are hopeless, mentally exhausted and wracked with anxiety. The problem in our nation isn’t one that can be fixed by legislation, or the sheer will of the people. It’s a heart problem. It’s people who feel unwanted, unloved, sad, rejected, alone and hundreds of other negative emotions that lead them, one thought at a time, into further paths of darkness.

I know this because I have walked in that darkness. For 25 years I tried to do life on my own, with my own standards. Twenty years ago, as I walked down a steep mountain trail that beckoned me to jump over the edge, the word “PRAY” echoed in my head…and I did so, earnestly, even though I never really prayed before. I prayed that, if God were real, he would move us to a different place. I prayed that he’d take me to a place where I could learn more about Him. I prayed that if I survived to the bottom of the mountain, he’d give me a way out of the overwhelming situation I found myself in. I prayed that He’d take my life and make it something new, because I was floundering on my own.

And that’s exactly what He did. He led me to a place where I could learn and grow and change into something and someone completely new. He changed my heart. He transformed my marriage. He gave me three beautiful children, each one overcoming great odds to make it into existence.

I’m realizing that the people who mock prayers on social media don’t know the transforming power of prayer. They don’t know God’s power because they have never experienced it personally. They believe the world’s destiny resides in man’s best thoughts and legislation. I find that belief altogether terrifying. It’s like expecting bandaids to fix gaping chest wounds.

This is what praying does: It unleashes the power and sovereignty of God in our world. It ushers in protection, provision, hope and unreasonable joy in any situation. A world without prayers is a world destined for destruction, one broken heart lashing out at a time.

So, when I walk in the store and see someone whose countenance looks broken, I pray.

When I see a kid who is sitting alone with no friends to talk to, I pray.

When I send my kids off to their public school, I pray for them, the other students, and their teachers.

When I see a friend lose a child unexpectedly, I cry, and I pray.

And when I see a situation I have no idea how to help, I will type, “My thoughts and prayers are with you!” into the comments section of Facebook. Unlike flowers, a donation, or legislation, prayers last into eternity, and call on God Himself to change the course of someone’s life forever for the better.

In the true battles of life, it’s not about the weapons at all. It’s not about gun control or thought control. It’s about individual hearts rallying together, helping each other, and shining light into the darkness so others can join in.

Let us pray…because absolutely, prayers do matter.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16