With everyone else I am still trying to get my head and heart around the recent tragedy in Newtown. As a father of 5, I can’t imagine the grief and sorrow of the many families affected forever by a few seconds of chaos. May they find comfort and peace in the heart of God in the upcoming days, weeks and months.
When Newtown happened I was still in the midst of grieving another tragedy that occurred 2 days prior in a mall in Oregon, where a lone gunman took the lives of 2 innocent shoppers before ending his own.
Yesterday’s tragedies get eclipsed by today’s, and because human nature is what it is, tomorrow’s seem all but guaranteed.
Tragedies like these evoke in us a desire to see something change. They upset our equilibrium. They judge harshly our complacency.
Some of these hoped-for changes are laudable and necessary. Some lament the ever-increasing secularization of our culture and believe these horrors could be averted if we re-instituted public prayer in our schools. Some believe better gun control laws are the answer along with repenting of our obsession with guns and the right to own one.
I would gladly welcome both proposals and and would be happy to see them incorporated.
Others will miss this opportunity for change altogether and divert our attention to heroic moments of brothers saving a wet cat or a millionaire athlete giving out an annual shopping spree to some lucky kid. We will surround ourselves with appeasements of our innate goodness to prevent having to look very deep at the evil that lurks within. We preach, “peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
But none of this – neither legislating public prayer or gun control, or focusing on the outward goodness of humanity – will resolve our crisis.
Our problem is not a political or legislative one, it is a heart one.
While prayer in schools is a good which I applaud, a friend reminded me this weekend that prayer in schools did not prevent the Amish school shooting of 2006. And tighter gun laws, while no doubt necessary, will not protect the innocent. In Beijing, China, the same day as the tragedy in Newtown, a man attacked 22 children and one adult in a primary school with a knife. This, the latest of a barrage of knife attacks inside Chinese schools.
And as for appeals to remember our goodness, both our Scriptures (Rom. 3:10-12; Ecc. 7:20) and our experience say otherwise. Fact is, there is an Adam Lanza in every one of us. But for the grace of God, go I.
Jesus said that it is out of the abundance of our hearts that evil such as sexual immorality and murder comes (Mark 7:21). He told us that we must first make the inside of the cup clean (our hearts), and then all else will be clean (Matt. 23:26).
Jesus did not allow his audience to take the easy way out by rallying to change the external forces around them (eg. lobby for prayer in schools or gun control) nor did he comfort their crisis by telling them they are basically good people who are just unfortunate products of their evil society.
No. He told them, as he tells us today, to repent. He calls each of us to the long, hard, dying-to-self life of obedience. He brings judgment upon our prayers which say,
Thank God I’m not Adam Lanza
while justifying the contrite in heart who cries,
Have mercy on me, God, a sinner.
We long to see something change, but want to see it happen without changing us.
I believe there is an opportunity here for us to make some radical changes but it will begin where Jesus began: By becoming more faithful disciples ourselves and making disciples of the nations.
And this, I think, is where those calling for prayer in schools have it at least partially right. But it has nothing to do with schools. It has to do with churches.
St. Peter said, “the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.” (1 Pet. 4:17). What is this judgment? In large part I believe it is summed up in Jesus’ words:
My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers (Matt. 21:13).
How little our churches, let alone schools, are houses of prayer! How little time we actually spend in pouring our hearts out to God, seeking His wisdom and direction and protection over our lives and our land. There is something wrong in our churches when we can hold a pot-luck and raffle that draws hundreds but call a mid-week prayer meeting and you get crickets.
We as a “Christian nation” will rise up as one at 4Am for Black Friday but few of us will “rise before dawn and cry for help” (Psalm 119:147).
While we ask in the wake of tragedy, “Where was God in this?” God may very well be asking of us, “Where are my prayer-warriors in my House?”
Jesus said my house shall be a house of prayer. Perhaps before we make schools havens of prayer we should first make ourselves, and our churches, battle-grounds of the same.
Yes, something must change. But the change begins in me. And in you. As for me, I resolve to continue in my morning prayer walks before the sun rises, beseeching God to become more in me that I would become less. I resolve to pray with my wife and children at home, to model what it means to be desperate and thirsty for the voice of God in my own life. I resolve to cry out to God for our nation, our schools, and our churches, that we would know the power of God to transform our hearts and minds and see revival in our day and age. I resolve, by the grace of God, to stand in the gap for a growing majority in our country and churches who no longer fear God or believe He is really paying attention. I resolve to make God’s house a house of prayer, and to cling to his promise which states,
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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14).
What will you do?