Do prayers change anything in this unjust world?
What is your reaction when you see #thoughtsandprayers–often on social media hence the hashtag–posted about something terribly unjust?

That hashtag has become emotionally loaded. At that moment of tragedy we don’t want just thoughts and prayers, we want action. We want to feel safe again. We hate that our fears our triggered. We want justice. We want an ordered world. We don’t want to even know about the grief that these others are feeling.

Some people lob this hashtag up as something to say because you don’t know what else to say. I believe in the power of prayer so I believe this is doing something.

Add that social media adds pressure to respond. We have to say something and we don’t know what to say so we try a hashtag.

I also believe that some people post this hashtag and never intend to do anything to make a way for justice or to help the victims. Hence the growing anger at this hashtag #thoughtsandprayers.

Is this why the praying hands emoji was created? What does that really mean?

Some believe prayer doesn’t do anything. We need action. We need change. We don’t need a hashtag platitude.

Sometimes and some people see this hashtag as virtue signaling. Again, this isn’t going to change anything.

We have a lot of prayers happening—or so we talk about—but are they changing anything in this unjust world?

Saying we will pray doesn’t remove us from getting involved. Our involvement may now be a practice of contending prayer for this injustice.

Two of the great historical abolitionists are Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas. Shortly after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that required runaway slaves to be brought back to their masters, Frederick Douglas expressed his despair to Sojourner Truth. He was a runaway slave. He was losing hope that slavery would ever end. Would anything ever change in this unjust world?

Sojourner chastised him and his lack of faith with four little words, “Frederick, is God dead?”

Those words appear on Sojourner Truth’s gravestone.

We continue to pray because God is not dead.

To deal with the issues of injustice or what has unfairly happened to you, we need contending prayer. We need prayer that is fighting words to fight the long fight. Because God is not dead.

A sign of true prayer is that it always leads to action.   

  • My thoughts create a burden. My thoughts keep me awake.
  • The way to process my thoughts so I can sleep is to pray. I very much believe in praying so you can fall asleep.
  • What does God want to see happen about this burden?
  • Through prayer you start to understand God’s compassionate heart.
  • This helps you know what actions to take, and whether you want to or not.
  • Some ideas start forming in your head. Contending prayer is where the good ideas come from.

Prayer is an action. Not a hashtag platitude. Prayer is the elevator that brings us into the strategy room of heaven.

Now we aren’t reacting to the evil today. This is more strategic. This is full of wisdom. Your mind takes on the imagination of Christ as to what to do about this problem. You begin with a reaction and no idea what this person really needs. Then prayer gives you a plan. Crazy God ideas comes out of contending prayer.

Note:  The Bible must be a part of contending prayer. For one, it helps you have words for the long haul that contending prayer is. Sometimes you just need to pray the words in the Bible because you don’t know what else to say. Also, the Bible can show you those crazy God ideas.

Contending prayer is:

  • Wrestling with the unseen realm.
  • Intercession. Intercession means we care. This is why we try prayer.
  • We feel the pain and hold on to the promise of God. What is God’s dream for this problem?
  • We hold on to hope.
  • We stand in the gap and pray speaking the truth into our reality.
  • We are praying to win. You are a contender.

When we pray, we move angels. Look at Hebrews 12:14-22 – Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. …No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. Live wisely, come to the mountain (which is a consistent metaphor of God meeting us throughout the entire Bible), and move angels.

Of course there is Ephesians 6:12, For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. And this beautiful description found in Revelation 5:8, And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Also Revelation 8:3-5.)

Do you see the tenacity in this?

This is a long commitment. In my life and the greatest story of my life, it only took 30 years of contending prayer over the life of my sons. From the contending prayer I figured out how to raise our boys so they could break generational cycles. This took only 30 years…and counting.

Do you see how contending prayer is needed to change things beyond what you have control over?

Sometimes contending prayers are just a groan. (Romans 8:26-27). Because you have no words left. Or groans for days. Or screams. Or praying the truth of my soul which is never in complete sentences.

The work of prayer is the work of the unseen.

At the end of a complicated parable Jesus taught on prayer, Jesus summarizes in Luke 18:8. I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

God’s heart is to grant justice quickly. Evil is in the way. God is looking for agreement on earth. He is looking for people to agree and align with his intentions, with what he has already declared. Prayer is how we do this. This is more than a hashtag platitude. This is contending prayer.

“We must all practice violence and remember that he who prays is fighting against the devil and the flesh…Satan is opposed to the church…the best thing we can do, therefore, is to put our fists together and pray.” 

Martin Luther

Hope is having bloody fists. This is one way I fight forward.



New Bible Study:  Trust Issues with God With Video

Life is unfair. When the unfair thing happens, we look for a reason, a solution, a purpose, justice. These are all things we expect from God. When God doesn’t deliver when we expect or need him to, there is a gap in our understanding of who God is. This Bible study is to help you fill in that gap with trust over suspicion by exploring the truths of the Bible, both individually and in a group setting.

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