Why Pray About Terrorism?

December 14, 2015

In response to the radical Islamic terrorist attack on San Bernardino, politicians, including our President, offered prayers of sympathy and comfort to the victims and families of that attack. The New York Daily News ran a headline the next day reading, “God Won’t Fix This.”

While I imagine the New York Daily News does think that gun control will fix this (we all appeal to our gods in time of crisis, after all) they have no standing to know what God did or did not do in that attack. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what prayer is about.

People pray every day and we have a God who says in the Bible that he hears our prayers. We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” and we see many prayers documented, yet few results are ever documented. The Bible isn’t nearly as concerned with God being manipulated by the prayers of his people than it is to simply state that we should pray.

We serve a God who is beyond time and space. Time has physical properties and God is not a physical being for he created all that is physical, including time. So our prayers are made in time but they appeal to a timeless God. It is possible for God to operate in the past, present or future based on our prayers though God doesn’t appear to be the kind of being to confirm when He is doing what He is doing in our lives. He’s not threatened by not getting credit. I assume this is because our doubts that he exists or our doubts that question if he is doing anything at all still doesn’t threaten him and doesn’t make him answer us.

But for all we know God already did “fix this.” For all we know (and certainly for all the New York Daily News knows) the body count would have been twice as high without the prayers offered by people in the past, present and future regarding Santa Barbara. For a leftist rag to claim to know the plans of God, the future, or the expanse of his plans, is hubris, though not an uncommon hubris in contemporary culture.

But back to praying for tragedy; a mistake is made by this bird-cage liner in assuming God marches to the order of our prayers. Our prayers surely have moved God, but far more prayers are simple cries for help, lamentations over the dead or a time for the believer to realign with God no matter what His will may be. We pray “Thy will be done” not “my will be done.” and this is yet another place where I part ways with my culture because we have different views of God’s sovereignty.

Am I better than God because I want him to cure a child of cancer and He chooses not to do it? Does that warrant my disbelief? I have a big imagination, and it’s not hard for me to believe in a good God who still allows the Paris terrorist attacks to happen. All of these arguments end up going back to the Epicurean “problem of evil” or “how can a good God allow evil to exist?” It’s a thin view of God to not allow him to have any plans beyond what I demand he do today to justify my belief in him. There is a lack of humility there that I assume is latent in all men.

A couple at our church lost their two-year-old child to a choking accident this week. Perhaps only God could have saved him. We can safely assume that it would be a good thing for this child to have been saved and that the parents gave the most heartfelt, fervent, trusting prayers to God begging Him to save this child because only God could have. Nothing. But is a dead child evidence of God’s absence, or even a lack of faith in the parents, or the presence of sin in the world? I assume that even before the fall of man that if Adam and Eve had a two-year-old who choked on a rock that he could die. That’s not the problem of The Fall, it’s a problem of physics.

I still pray that God will bring comfort to the families who have suffered from having children who die and of decent people who were shot up by terrorists. I don’t know if God will fix this, or if he already has fixed it as much as he wants to right now, but I do know that the answer to anything being truly fixed is ultimately in His hands. I pray to God not to manipulate him into giving me what I want, but to acknowledge that I’m on board with his ultimate will. I pray, “God you don’t have to fix this for me to know that you’re there, active and that you love me.”

6 Responses to “Why Pray About Terrorism?”


  1. Excellent and insightful piece. Too many think of prayer as a means by which we control God, and we thus have a license to reject Him if we cannot turn him into a genie that will do our will.

    The modern attitude is hubris personified, as you rightly note. Far more suffering has been caused by people who believe themselves to be above God and prayer than will ever be caused by those who humbly follow Him.

    -JM-

  2. Lynn Maudlin Says:

    I regularly see “the world” (and sometimes even semi-religious friends) set up a straw-man god, pretend that it IS God, and demand an answer as to why their straw-man didn’t do XYZ or why it allowed PQR, etc.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that relatively few people believe in a god as YHWH describes Himself in scripture – and, to some degree, why would they? What they want is a god which responds on demand, the vending-machine god, the sweet-and-uncritical grandfather god: Give me what I ask for, now, and make no demands on me.

    It’s very hard to answer real questions about God when the questions presume a straw-man god and the asker doesn’t want to know anything about the Maker of the universe, Creator of all that exists.

    Harkening back to 9/11/2001, it was a Tuesday and my church had a powerful “listening prayer/prophetic intercession” prayer group which met every Tuesday afternoon. So, in our stillness, listening to to what the Lord would say to us, I saw an image of God’s hands, resonating with the “you’re in good hands with Allstate” image, and the New York skyline was wrapped in His hands. I knew that is wasn’t just NYC but the nation which is under His sovereign care – and I saw Him lift the side of one hand just a little bit, allowing just a little of the continual onslaught to “get in” – and that was 9/11.

    We have no clue how much He deflects and protects us all the time, on a personal, community, national, and even global level. So the day of the judgment of our God will be pretty intense and I think it will start with simply removing His sheltering hands.

  3. A.J. Ellis Says:

    Really appreciated this; it’s nice to hear when it seems like, increasingly, I hear Christians say that we are the answer to prayer (almost in a “God helps them that help themselves” kind of way).

    I was tracking with you for most all of it, but I was wondering if you could elaborate more on your train of thought when you said, “I assume that even before the fall… a two-year-old who chocked on a rock [could die].” I guess I’d never thought that was a possibility since I was thinking that Rom 5 asserts that it was only after Adam’s sin that death entered the world (and I figure that you need to have death before you can die).

    • tennapel Says:

      I’m speculating, so take it with a grain of salt, but I assume Paul is talking about spiritual death in Romans 5, not physical death. If pre-fallen Adam fell off a cliff, I assume he would die, but not go to a place of dark death, just into the arms of God. I was just making a case that choking on something isn’t a sign of evil but a sign of physics in action.


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