An attack in Brussels, a suicide bomb targeting Chrsitians in Pakistan, continuing war and genocide in Syria and throughout the world, despair even in our own land. It may be the cry of your heart: “Is there anything I can do?!”
Yes, there is. You and I can make a difference, in a world far away and also in the place we are right now. But we have to pay attention. We seldom make a difference by accident.
At the sound of an ambulance you can, as a simple man once taught me, say “Lord, have mercy.” Stuck on the highway because of an accident ahead? Again, “Lord have mercy. Provide for them according to your good purpose.”
Numbed by headlines filled with terror, we begin to make a difference by first acknowledging that these people are part of us. By recognizing that so many of our worries pale in comparison to their present terror. Remember, our stories and theirs are woven together into the fabric of our own lives and difficulties. Don’t just skim the headlines. Linger for a moment at least, resisting the curiosities of entertaining news and take a moment to pray for those who are suffering. Some are fellow believers. All are fellow sojourners.
Does prayer make a difference? It’s a valid question. After all, we live in a world of instant gratification and response. Press a button and get something in return. Work and get paid so we can afford to rest. Even in church we’re eager to count numbers of hands raised when what matters is lives radically transformd by the power and grace of Jesus. Every leading of the Spirit begins in prayer. If not your own prayer, the prayer of someone else on your behalf, and always the prayer of Jesus himself that draws us ever closer to our Heavenly Father.
Have you noticed how very often Jesus himself “went out to pray?” Prayer releases God’s power on earth. I don’t fully understand why God chooses to work that way. Perhaps it is because prayer is not designed to be a wish list of things for God to do for you, but a faith led and heartfelt request for God to work through you. Our prayers mark our cooperation with God in accomplishing his plan.
Through your actions of kindness, your helping hand, through your generosity to invest in others lives, you also make a difference. Surrending a dollar a day from our exceeding luxuries, we change the world for a child sponsored by Compassion International. Invested in Go Light Our World (GLOW), that same dollar buys a nutritious meal delivered with the truth and love of Jesus. Through GLOW, a dollar a day pays for medicine for a family for months. Twelve dollars buys a pair of shoes for someone who has none. Or have you considered how you could use a few dollars to create a care package that is kept in your car for the next time you see a homeless person in need?
The prayers and deeds of a righteous, God-seeking person are effective and powerful – even when we don’t see the results. You understand the value of planting a tree you will never see grow to its highest heights. You comprehend the benevolence of giving without expecting return, of helping a small child or an elderly stranger. You give directions to one who is lost. Surely, you can see that prayer also has real consequences that remain unseen for now, but will one day be fully revealed. I expect countless people will come up to you in heaven, expressing thanks for some way you spoke value and hope into their lives, for sharing with them even a simple story of how God works in your life. Likewise, I expect there will be people who approach you in heaven because you prayed for them, even when you did not know their name.
Living for God means loving others. “What can I do in the face of such large scale disaster?” Pray and ask God to open your eyes to what you can do.