Thursday, May 3, 2012

Do We Even Have a Prayer?

Centuries ago, Charles Dickens opened his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” If he were writing today, Dickens might be inclined to start with “It wasn’t the best of times – and things were getting worse.”

Not wanting to sound ancient, but when I attended school as a boy, the biggest problems were spitballs (crumpled bits of paper either tossed or blown through a straw), running in the hallways, chewing gum, and going up the down staircase. Really bad kids smoked in rest rooms. Today, our schools must deal with loaded guns and other weapons, drugs and alcohol (even at grade-school levels), all manner of violence, physical and psychological bullying, and classrooms on the edge of anarchy.

Violence on college campuses has become all-too commonplace. Once-respected leaders at all levels of government, business, education, athletics and religion have perpetrated acts of gross unethical and immoral conduct. Broadcast news reports routinely open with gruesome accounts of murder and mayhem. Entertainment media flaunt and applaud behavior that would have been unthinkable only decades ago. It’s reported 3.4 of every 1,000 babies starts out life suffering from some form of chemical addiction withdrawal due to drug abuse by mothers. Terrorism is an ever-present fear and threat.

I’m an optimist at heart, but I see little reason for optimism about our society’s course. What should be our response? We complain, criticize, gripe, moan and groan, even judge and condemn. We look to politics to solve our nation’s ills, believing with the “right” people in the right offices, things will turn around. We employ any means possible for imposing our moral will on others.

Somehow I doubt any of that will cure the national malaise. Instead, it might be wise to follow the time-worn adage: “When all else fails, pray.”

Today is the National Day of Prayer. In light of what we see transpiring daily across our land – and around the world – it could be the most pivotal day of the year. Of course, many of us (even those that consider themselves among God’s faithful) won’t take time to pray. Maybe we really don’t believe in the power of prayer, or think it’s more productive to “do something,” even if it’s just worrying and wringing our hands.

But 2 Chronicles 7:14 in the Bible’s Old Testament suggests there is nothing more important than to pray: “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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The onus is clearly on God’s people, those “called by My name,” to humble ourselves, sincerely seek Him and turn from our own disobedient ways. This passage says nothing about trying to “fix” society – God will do that, if we humbly pray and submit ourselves to Him.

Yes, it seems our world is going to Hades in the proverbial hand-basket, but the Bible proclaims our part is to pray. Then God will do His part. Another verse reaffirms this conviction: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Seems simple enough. So what are you going to do: scream and shout and dance about? Or pray?

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