An avalanche of reactions arose on the internet almost immediately after the Parkland shootings last week. Many of them revolved around the theme, “People are sick of the ‘thoughts and prayers’ response after school shootings. They demand action.”
These negative statements about “thoughts and prayers” have gained traction over the last few years following school shootings. Yet, most Christians cover their ears and dismiss the criticisms as liberal demagoguery.
But maybe Christians are overlooking something.
Debbie Miller, a Broward County school teacher, wrote an article in the online edition of the Washington Post. Her finishing paragraph opened my eyes to a missing truth. She wrote, “At this point, politicians, don’t just offer us your thoughts and prayers. I welcome them, but prayers did nothing for Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marshall County High School or three educators and 14 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Do something.”
In plain words, Miller wrote that our prayers have not been able to save lives in the school tragedies that have happened in America over the last 20 years. Is her assumption correct?
I think she’s spot-on!
Now, my answer does not take into account heroic interventions by teachers, others and even God to save lives, which probably happened at each school mentioned by Miller in her article.
But the simple truth is that young men walked into Columbine, Sandy Hook, Madison County High School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas with one goal in mind: to murder students and teachers. Sadly, they succeeded.
Is it possible we don’t have enough religious nuts praying at the altars of our churches?
The first time I heard the term “religious nut” was in the 1950s when Mom spit those words out of her mouth after shopping at Meiners’ Grocery Store in Forreston, Illinois.
A few minutes earlier, Mom had picked a few items off the store’s shelves and carried them up to the checkout. Lillian Meiners, the cashier, attempted to share the gospel of Christ with Mom while totaling the purchases on her cash register. It was a one-sided conversation with Mom saying nothing.
“She’s a religious nut!” Mom proclaimed as we walked to our 1955 Pontiac, parked outside the door.
From that day forward, Lillian personified a religious nut to me. I would often see her, and when I did Mom’s words popped into my mind. Lillian never knew my true feelings about her. It was one of those inner character assassinations never spoken aloud to anyone.
Lillian’s name was filed on a forgotten back shelf of my mind until late 1985. It would still be there covered with layers of dust and cobwebs but for the question I asked the Lord one morning during my devotional time.
“Jesus, why did you save me?”
A voice whispered to my heart.
“Because of Lillian Meiners’ prayers for you.”
The Lord’s words stunned me, but a few years later, I talked with her pastor. He told me Lillian was a diligent prayer warrior for kids like me. She never allowed what others said behind her back or to her face to impede her prayer life. The pastor also mentioned he had heard from dozens of kids over the years with testimonies much like mine.
Here’s how Lillian’s prayers changed my life:
On May 20, 1985, I hit a dead end in my quest to be wealthy by starting a publishing company. I was out of time and money. Suicide seemed to be the only option to handle my dismal circumstances. And taking my life was not a problem because I was an agnostic at the time.
But for some reason on that Monday, I stopped to see a businessman, Bill Sheridan, who was also a man of prayer.
The two of us talked about the Chicago Cubs and our sons’ baseball games until Bill’s eyes looked deep into mine. “You’re thinking about committing suicide, aren’t you?” he said.
I wept and tried to regain my composure but could not. “How did you know?” I asked through sobs.
“Oh,” said Bill, “the Lord told me while we were talking to each other.”
His words destroyed every bit of unbelief and agnosticism in my heart. That was the day I gave my life to the Lord.
So, why were the prayers of Lillian Meiners, a religious nut, successful in saving my life, but the prayers for Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marshall County High School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas failed to save lives?
The answer should be obvious to everyone.
Lillian persistently prayed for me before I walked to the edge of the cliff. Her prayers paved a path to safety and a new life for me in Christ. My guess is that I am still walking in her prayers today.
But after searching the internet, I couldn’t find one church or Christian group who prayed for the safety of the students, teachers and others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before the tragedy on Feb. 14, 2018. Afterward, there have been all kinds of prayers by many groups for the students.
This is the same recipe for failure Christians have been following since April 20, 1999. That was the day two young men walked into Columbine High School and killed 12 students, one teacher, and injured 21 others.
When will Christians wake up?
The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. (James 5:16 AMP)
Every community in America needs “religious nuts” like Lillian Meiners who will gather together to pray and fast for the students in their local schools. Whether these believers meet in churches, homes, schools or wherever doesn’t really matter because prayers will reach their targets from anywhere.
This does not mean laws and other things shouldn’t be changed, but prayer and fasting must be the foundation supporting everything else being done for the safety of America’s students.