My mornings are predictable. I roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and wait for my brain to wake up as I scroll through my iPhone. After perusing social media, I open the Associated Press news app. I like to know what’s going on in the world, and the AP app gives you a quick glimpse of the news, both good and bad.
But I recently realized I was letting this app ruin my mornings. As I scrolled though headlines about natural disasters, child abuse, racism, terrorism, murder, etc., I would get depressed and even fearful that one day the dateline might read my hometown and that I would be the victim in one of these horrendous stories. The news terrified me because the evil in the world seemed to be running rampant, and there was no way I could ensure that such tragedies wouldn’t affect me or my family.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t reading the news as a Christian.
I was reading the news without remembering the end and the beginning of the story. I had forgotten where evil started, a consequence of the Fall. As soon as Adam and Eve bit that apple, they brought natural disaster and human cruelty to the world. Paul describes the earth as “groaning” (Romans 8:22) under the weight of sin, awaiting the redemption of the one who created it.
Even more importantly, I had forgotten the end of the story. *Spoiler alert:* good triumphs over evil. Christ returns, defeats evil forever, and establishes peace between God and man. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 12:4). I don’t live in fear of this present suffering, because I know of the glory that is to come.
But faith in future peace doesn’t negate the fact that there are suffering people and real evil in the world. That is where Christians step in to be a light in darkness. And the first step towards shining that light is entreating our Heavenly Father for justice, good, and peace through prayer. Though this often isn’t a Christian’s first response, Christ set the example by always spending time in prayer before facing difficulty and suffering. Christians can do nothing apart from the strength and authority of God, and prayer is how we ask for God’s help to bring goodness to an evil world.
So, how do you pray for the suffering world around you when you hear of tragedy and evil in the news?
Pray with Hope
Though I haven’t stopped reading the news, I have changed my perspective. When I read of a child who was murdered by negligent parents or of Christian martyrs in the Middle East, I pray with hope knowing that God will avenge those deaths. When I hear of people losing their homes by forest fires or tsunamis, I know that God is with them in their suffering. When I hear of people perverting God’s design, I know that one day he will judge according to his perfect will. I have hope that the end of the story is good even if in the present there is evil. Some might call this hope naïve; but it’s what keeps me afloat in a world full of tragic news.
Recently, my pastor stood solemnly behind the pulpit speaking about the grim state of the world around us—sexual perversion, disregard for the sanctity of life, unrestrained evil—and stated confidently,
“I’m not an optimist; I’m not a pessimist. I’m hopeful.”
The hope of the Bible isn’t a wishful thought. It’s a confidence; it’s patiently waiting for what you know will happen (Romans 8:23-25). When we pray for the world around us, we pray knowing that one day, Christ will come back and redeem his creation, forever ending evil. There will be no more suffering, sadness, and pain. All the consequences of the Fall will be reversed, and the earth will be at peace again.
So as news of tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes overrun the newspapers and computer screens, we don’t have to live with the fear of the future or the sorrow of the past. We can live in hope that this suffering is only momentary; Christ will return us to glory.
Pray with Expectancy
If we as Christians truly grasp the end of the story, it would be foolish for us to read the news, shrug our shoulders, and say, “There’s nothing I can do. I’ll just sit here, close my eyes, and wait for Christ’s return.” Through the Holy Spirit, we have the power to bring the light of Christ into a dark world. And the foremost way we can do this is through prayer.
But we have to believe that our prayers work.
Jesus encouraged his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” right after he told them, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” (John 14:14, 27).
We think as the world thinks when we believe that our prayers don’t truly affect change in this world. That’s why after the San Bernardino shooting, a New York Times writer scoffed at the prayerful condolences being offered and stated, “God’s not fixing this.” That’s why after the terrorist attacks in Paris a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist rebuffed the #prayforparis hashtag, saying Paris didn’t need prayers or more religion.
And, while the world may not want the deluge of social media posts proclaiming “my thoughts and prayers,” they certainly need the intercession of a Christian who with faith prays to God in Jesus’ name. They need Christians who have learned from Jesus that “they ought always to pray and not lose heart”—who persistently seek the face of God to bring justice to a world full of evil (Luke 18:1).
So Christian, pray for justice. Pray for God’s glory and goodness to be shown on this earth. But pray believing that it will happen.
Pray with the Kingdom in Mind
When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he started, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). Praying for God’s kingdom to come should be of upmost priority in our prayer life. We should pray that the goodness, glory, and peace of Heaven would infiltrate the darkness and evil of earth. But Jesus did not come to fight the kingdoms of the world, so what kingdom are we fighting against?
Our true enemy is not a terrorist cell, politician, or a serial murderer; our true enemy is Satan who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We pray that God’s power, shown through his people, would defeat the evil powers at work in the world. We pray for the souls of evil people—that their hearts would be turned to God. We pray for politicians who are making ungodly decisions—that they would be filled with the knowledge and wisdom of God. We pray for those affected by natural disasters—that they might experience the comfort and peace of God. We do not fight against evil people; we fight for people to free them from the evil keeping them captive.
When standing before religious leaders right before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting” (John 18:36). Jesus did not want his followers to fight against the Jews who sought to kill him. He knew that the only way to triumph over evil was to defeat it with good. So instead of fighting those who wanted to murder him, he died for them. He could do this because he knew who the real enemy was and how to defeat him.
Many in the world would probably laugh to hear someone say prayer is the solution to solving gun violence, terrorism, racism, and political controversy. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). As Christians, we do not put our hope in the power and comfort of this world, we look forward to the day that Christ comes again, this time on a white horse ready for judgment, and defeats the powers of evil once and for all. If you truly believe this, Christian, pray this way.