As I look at the images of disaster in Japan, I’m having trouble processing them. I hardly know what to think or how feel. And I’m definitely struggling to pray about it.
Yet my experience suggests that there are at least three components to healthy prayer in the wake of catastrophe:
- Let it all hang out before God — lay out your confusion, grief, pain, hurt, shock, anger, resentment and even guilt in prayer; speak honestly to God about your reaction (or your inability to have a coherent reaction). God made us and the Lord Jesus knows our plight from the inside. We don’t need to hide or pretend.
- Call on God to do something about it — God is the God of life; death was not his intention for the world or human life. Although it may not be everything we have to say about God’s relationship to death and catastrophe, surely the first thing we must say is that they’re his enemies.
- Ask God to somehow bring good out of it — the crucified (and risen) Lord can use even the most tragic and horrible thing to bring about good. We probably won’t often be able to see how he might do this. But we can entrust ourselves to him.
My impression is that we often ignore point 1 and (usually muttering something about God working all things for the good of those who love him) put point 3 before point 2 — especially in our public prayers.
I can understand this, of course. What more powerful statement of faith is there than this in the teeth of an unfolding disaster?
I suppose nothing essential hinges on the order in which you pour out what’s on your heart to God. But I do wonder how often we allow ourselves — or the people we’re leading in prayer — to (a) feel the horror and depth of a catastrophe, or (b) beg God to intercede now in the way he’s promised to when Christ returns.
How do you pray in the wake of catastrophe?