When Prayer Feels Like Shooting Bullets at a Hurricane.
Yesterday I peacefully enjoyed an intensely bright Sunday afternoon. Hurricane Irma had just made landfall in Florida after not-so-peacefully smashing through Cuba and other Caribbean islands, killing at least 25 people and leaving utter devastation in her wake.
Earlier in the day, Beth had pointed out a Facebook post that one of our friends had written; “46,000 Floridians joined a Facebook group to shoot their guns at Hurricane Irma. That is all.”
By the time I visited the Facebook event, Shoot At Hurricane Irma, 54,000 people were at least intrigued. The about section of the page said, “LET'S SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST.”
What I envisioned after Beth mentioned the post was 46,000 fearless Floridians, all with guns to the sky, shooting a barrage of bullets into the encroaching storm. Someone mentioned how a sheriff was asking 46,000 people not to shoot at Irma and someone else suggested the bullets may boomerang back around, becoming deadly projectiles (this later idea was debunked here).
Apparently realizing the event was being taken more seriously than intended, the ringleader of the Facebook page posted, “On another note, I've learned that about 50% of the world can’t understand sarcasm to save their lives. Carry on.”
Sometimes my prayers feel a lot like uselessly shooting bullets at a hurricane.
One of the problems in how we followers of Jesus respond to something like Hurricane Irma is that we’re often two things: busy and doubtful.
The apostle James tells us that double-minded, doubtful Christians aren’t effective ones.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8, ESV).
We're busy for the same reason everyone else is; life.
But what causes us to doubt?
Could it be that I/we aren’t sure who sent the storm? Insurance policies actually classify hurricanes as “Acts of God.” Are they?
Since God may have sent the hurricanes, how could He possibly honor prayers Christians pray against something He’s directing in the first place?
Wondering wether we should even attempt to “shoot” or “rebuke” anything, let alone the forces of nature?
The most notorious example of why followers of Jesus might consider storm-rebuking is because Jesus is the original storm-shooter:
“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”’ (Luke 8:22-25, ESV).
The second story that comes to mind is that of Elijah altering nature (twice) through prayer:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17&18, ESV).
God established Joseph with a position of power in Pharaoh's Egyptian palace to prevent people and land from destruction.
“Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”’ (Genesis 41:33-36, ESV).
Considering we don't all live in Texas, Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean, It’s possible your storm has nothing to do with high winds and torrential rain.
I’ve prayed many prayers of rebuke over the last seven or so years, mostly over sickness, disease and demonic powers. And I’ve sometimes watched big names like cancer, tumors, and blindness disappear at nothing but the blood of Jesus. And I am SO insanely thankful, joyful, grateful when prayers are answered (by me or anyone else). One prayer answered is hopeful reminder to keep praying.
At the same time, I haven’t seen every sickness or disease I’ve prayed for instantly cured, to the point where sometimes my prayers feel like little bullets being shot into an undefeatable hurricane covering the state of Florida.
But, what if we who follow Jesus began corporately shooting prayers at hurricanes with ferocity and passion? Would anything change?
There is video footage on YouTube of Christians in Miami gathering on the beach, worshipping God, in the face of Irma. Is it random chance that Miami was sparred the brunt of the storm or that the category 5 storm has only been growing weaker the further North it goes? Don't get me wrong, Irma has left millions powerless and is still a massive, destructive storm.
Failure might spell us looking like complete fools waving our hands over our heads, commanding hurricanes to dissipate only to watch the storm engulf other cities and states anyway. The world around us would undoubtedly write us off as ineffective fanatics. I’m fairly sure they’ve already had that thought.
On the other hand, a picture of success could be painted that brings Jesus glory and fame to a world who doubts His existence.
Can you imagine if mayors, sheriffs, and firefighters all over Florida were calling on the church to pray because they had heard what happens when Christians pray? When Jesus rebuked the storm, His disciples were afraid at the result. They marveled, wondering just who in the world Jesus was. Would the world around us begin doing the same?
What if Christians like me were focused more on shooting spiritual bullets at hurricanes than picking earthly battles with others?
I realize I’m asking a lot of questions, and that’s partly because I’m processing out loud with you. More than just arriving at an answer that will please every theological stance, I’m simply and sincerely asking.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Does a special Bible passage, verse or story come to your mind? What about the flood? Or the plagues God sent to harass Egypt?
P.S. In some ways all these thoughts feel two weeks too late. I haven’t even begun to address what Christians should do after a hurricane has come and gone. Pray? Give? Serve?