There are many roots to actions that lead to tragedies but one of the first places Christians start, is examining their own hearts and lives. True biblical prayer always has an aspect of identification in it, something the bible calls repentance. We repent for the state of things. It’s an act of recognizing the problems out there…most often start in our own hearts and minds.
“Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth…Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” -Daniel 9:13,19
The practice of praying for others isn’t a distant act of suspended action, it’s first and foremost an entrance into a deep association with the problems being prayed about. We confess our own culpability in the sufferings of our families, communities and nations. We stand with the guilty.
This posture and practice teaches us to be slow to judge, to contemplate the issues with thoughtfulness and pathos. We bear the burdens in a small measure and that personal or corporate practice postures us towards action. We are moved first but that then leads to being mobilized. It’s action that arises out of deep reflection and identification based on thinking, feeling, listening and waiting.
Just doing anything without meaningful contemplation isn’t the most mature way to engage difficult problems. Mourning over the impact of people’s choices, examining how we might be contributing to the problems, committing to change our own ways, holding close to our hearts and minds the grief being experienced and asking for wisdom greater than our own to inform and guide us, sets us up for fruitful action.
So when someone says “We are praying”, such a statement reflects a hopeful action that can lead to fewer tragedies and suffering. So prayer matters, not because we think that talking to God about the problems is all that can be done, but that in talking to God and with His help, we become part of the solution as well.