Last Tuesday morning, there was a shooting in my hometown (Fresno, CA) that killed three men and wounded others. While it was initially labeled as a "random act of violence," it has now been claimed as a hate crime. There was also another recent shooting in Paris, one in London several weeks ago, and many more that happen every single day. As it should be, the initial response many have is to pray for these places and everyone affected. Hashtags like #prayforparis trend on social media and are shared by people across the globe. And absolutely, this is an appropriate response-- I hope that people continue to recognize the need to pray for our world.
What confuses me is that prayer is generally only permitted and acceptable when a crisis or tragedy strikes. The rest of the time, much of our country (and world for that matter) makes prayer and the mention of God forbidden. So my question is, when we say pray for Paris or pray for Fresno, who are we praying to? Because, from what I've observed of many peoples' attitudes, they sure want nothing to with God 99% of the time.
There have been attempts (and successes) in removing prayer from schools and removing God from aspects of our government, but suddenly we'll allow Him to play some sort of role--as long as it's on our own terms.
Though people recognize the need to pray during tough times, many also question how a good God allows such evil to happen. Maybe we should ask a different question: How can we blame God when we're the ones who've rejected Him from almost every part of our lives? What will it take for us to wake up and realize that this world can't afford to reject the very God that created it? He has not deserted us; we have deserted Him.
America as a country treats prayer like fine china: only to be used for specific occasions and stored away otherwise to collect dust. Why is it okay to talk about prayer during tragedy, but then to turn around and prohibit coaches from praying with their athletes before a game or a race? The purpose of prayer goes far beyond the part we allow it to play-- it isn't to be acknowledged only when everything goes wrong.
Our world is hurting and this isn't something we can fix on our own. We can't mock God and then blame Him for the destructive actions of humanity. Nor can we continue to live under double-standards and relativity. Evil and brokenness will never be a thing of the past (at least for now), but I know that God hears our cries for justice, help, and healing. He is at work through it all, but this is a lot harder to see when we turn our backs.