The island of Maui was hard hit by massive fire destruction last week. And many, including me, are asking others to pray for its people. And I do! (https://churchleaders.com/news/456622-greg-laurie-ministry-leaders-relief-efforts-maui-fire.html)
But why pray? And why in a tragedy do so many ask for prayer, or say “I’m praying for you,” while at other times we go along life’s pathway, rarely mentioning prayer. Somehow in a tragedy, the world becomes more aware of the need for prayer, for some power beyond ourselves. In such a situation, we are desperate, needy, unable to help ourselves. We don’t hear about prayer much from our government leaders (with some notable exceptions), nor do we hear it much in workplaces or in our neighborhoods.
Is prayer a good-luck charm to help us when we’re in trouble?
Need for Prayer
The people of Maui are currently in deep trouble. Many have lost family members, homes, businesses and property in the fires that have raged through parts of the island, destroying the historic portion of Lahaina along Front Street, among other areas. The latest death toll I read was over 80, with more expected. Five thousand customers are without power.
I was pleased to read this morning that Blue Hawaiian Helicopters have changed their focus from tourism to bringing supplies into difficult-to-reach areas, and to helping with rescues where they can access a location. (Don and I took a wonderful Blue Hawaiian heli tour a few years ago.) Other companies and organizations like World Vision, Samaritans’ Purse, and Greg Laurie, to name a few, are also stepping in to help with both financial and practical aid.
California was in this situation in 2020 when wildfires raged here. Don and I had our “go-bag” ready in case of evacuation. Others had already left their homes and gone to shelters, churches, families or friends. Twin Lakes Church in Aptos provided housing to people with campers or motor homes, fed them and provided clothing and other needs during the fire. And we prayed.
Purpose of Prayer
We pray because we need Someone beyond ourselves; because we’re desperate. https://www.carolloewen.com/prayer-for-a-pandemic/
Right now I’m seeing (and passing on some) posts asking us to pray for the people of Maui. Yes, we do. And we help as we can. But how often do we see posts asking us to pray that we’ll know God better, obey Him more readily, love Him more deeply?
God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are community. He has made us to be in community too–both with Him and with others. We pray because God desires a relationship with us, and relationship includes two-way communication.
Prayer Deepens Relationship
How can my marriage, or any other relationship, deepen if the only time I talk to my husband is when I want or need something?
- I tell him when I do have a need
- I thank him for his leadership in our home, for all he does for us
- I tell him how much I love him and that he is my rock
- I tell him when something saddens or worries me, and also when something delightful happens.
- We share information or cute videos with each other.
- We pray, laugh, and sometimes weep together.
Don’t you think God wants that kind of communication with us too? Prayer can be thanks, petition, praise and worship, or just listening. It’s just talking with the God of the universe about whatever is on our minds and hearts. And that is such a privilege!
Prayer Helps Release Anxiety and Depression
Our prayers also tell us something about what we believe about God. Do we love Him and talk to Him regularly?
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 ESV
“A 2009 study on the effects of prayer on depression and anxiety found that members of a group had lower rates of depression and anxiety and were more optimistic after sessions in which they prayed for one another, compared to the control group (which had no prayer sessions).”
Prayer Helps Marriages
“…Another study found that when dating and married partners prayed for one another, they tended to be less aggressive and more inclined to forgive.” (https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/17/health/benefits-of-prayer-wellness/)
God is Good, All the Time
God’s character does not change. Our pastor mentioned a funeral he conducted this week for a nine-month-old child. What a tragic loss for these parents. But Pastor Joe reminded the father that God is still good, He still has a plan, and He is faithful.
Do we see God as a loving Father, eager to hear about our day, to hear us confess where we’ve fallen short (and to forgive us), to rejoice with us when things are going well? I remember my Dad asking questions about school, wanting to hear what I was learning, encouraging me in my goals,and holding me through a storm when I was a frightened little girl.
Do we Fear Praying?
I confess I sometimes fear thanking God for blessings because I fear He may take them away to see if I still trust Him. What does that say about my view of God? When I fear thanking Him, I’m saying I don’t trust Him to want the best for me. His best may be different than what I think is best–but He loves me. And with Job, I pray that in those hard times (and the ones I’ve already experienced), I will say,
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Job 13:15 NIV
For the people of Maui, and for the many tragic situations around the world as well as in the lives of individuals. Tell God your concerns. And then, when the crisis has passed, remember to thank Him, to talk to Him about the everyday aspects of life as well.
I lived and ministered in the ghetto for ten years. Our lives were often threatened. We knew where the nearest police stations were. We saw destruction, poverty, hurting people, death. We faced fear, and we helped each other through it. And we prayed.
- We prayed for safety, for protection
- We prayed for a change of heart for those who threatened us
- We prayed for peace in the midst of the storm
And we kept working, teaching Bible clubs, teen choir, and adult Bible studies as God opened doors. And we rejoiced in His work in the lives of individuals.
And Keep Praying
We didn’t stop praying once immediate dangers passed. We continued to pray for the people of our community to experience the peace of God in their difficult circumstances. Whether they didn’t have money to provide basic needs, lived in fear of the Bloods and Crips gangs, or didn’t know how they were going to provide for their children, we prayed. And we loved in practical ways, with food and clothing distribution, sometimes a safe place to spend a night.
So may we help Maui in practical ways that exhibit the love of Jesus. May we help provide for their immediate and long-term needs as we are able. Let’s pray that many come to know the love and grace of Jesus. Let’s pray for comfort, and for comforters to come alongside those who have lost loved ones.
King David Spoke to God From his Heart
King David in the Bible knew the pain of loss all too well. As he was being chased by his enemies, he recorded these powerful emotions in Psalm 31:9-10:
“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out. I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life. I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away.”
We can pray for the tears being shed, the exhaustion of sorrow, fear and loss. And we can also pray with David,
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11 ESV