Do our prayers help?

First slide

So I hear that Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t want our prayers.           

Well, not exactly. But he did, in a very emotional monologue, decry politicians who offered their “insufficient” prayers, saying they should instead pray for forgiveness regarding their inaction on gun control.

On one level, I understand his frustration. Las Vegas is his hometown. I know from my Columbine experience that when attacks hit close to home, the horror becomes more real. It feels personal. And Kimmel, like the rest of us, wants to do something to keep this from ever happening again.

My purpose here isn’t to wade into the gun debate. Rather, I want look at the prayer side of Kimmel’s monologue. Because I suspect many of us are feeling the same way. “Our prayers don’t seem to be helping.”

But are they? Is prayer just another failed tactic? If we are asking, “Have our prayers stopped the violence?” then obviously they haven’t. It continues.        

But making that the only gauge of “successful” prayer misses the point of who God is.

Of course, I could no more explain God and the mystery of suffering than I could manufacture a mountain range. But I do know what God has revealed about Himself to us in Scripture.

I know that He hates evil. He hates the destruction of innocent life. And the man (or woman) who destroys innocent life will face His judgment. But He gives us free will, which we can use for good or for evil. And ever since Adam and Eve used it to defy Him, evil has been let loose into the world. And the God Who loves us and intervenes in human history does not always intervene to prevent it. He in fact didn’t prevent the physical evil perpetrated against His own Son.

Why? We can’t fully know. His ways are above our ways. He sees this world through the lens of eternity. We are all destined to die, whether in our beds at a ripe old age or at a Jason Aldean concert in our prime. It is evil for one man to take the place of God in deciding when another man should die. But the greatest evil is not the loss of our earthly life. It is the loss of the eternal life that God desires to share with us. His interventions into human affairs are, I suspect, most often geared toward guiding us toward our eternal destiny than toward keeping us safe and comfortable in the here and now.

Most important, I know that “all things work for good for those who love Him, and walk according to His ways.” All things. Even the choices of evil men. If He could use Roman executioners to bring about our salvation, He can bring good from any evil.

Have our prayers been answered? Yes, even if we can’t know the extent. Has He thwarted other attacks? Has His hand of protection minimized the casualties? And, more important, have our prayers impacted the eternal fate of those whose lives were lost?

I know we see His love in action in the heroism of first responders and others on the scene. We see it in the outpouring of love and support from a grieving world. And we know that He is with us as we grieve and as we search for solutions.

God isn’t a god who protects us from every evil that could befall us in this life. He is the God of all consolation — the God who knows suffering because He suffered, who walks with us in our suffering and works it all for the greatest good, our eternal salvation.

So in this situation, like all others, we need to act. We need to work toward effective ways of protecting innocent human life. But as we do that, we also need to pray earnestly and consistently.

All of us. Even politicians. Even Jimmy Kimmel.

Bonacci is a syndicated columnist based in Denver and the author of We’re On a Mission from God and Real Love.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017