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June 17, 2016


#dontpray was trending again after a tragedy. Again, people are angry that #Godisntfixingthis.






Plenty could be said about the theology of prayer, but let’s talk instead about the psychology of prayer.



On one hand, I get it. Even God gets it. Dozens of Psalms could have been titled with similar hashtags:


“Why do You hide yourself in times of trouble” (Ps. 10:1)? #Godishiding


“Will You forget me forever” (Ps. 13:1)? #Godforgot


“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me” (Ps. 22:1)? #Godabandonedme





And the Psalms are just getting started! Trust me, God gets it. He’s not frustrated with us voicing our frustrations.


At the same time, I notice something else about the #dontpray-ers. The very people who tweet it are devoted to their own form of prayer. They can’t help it; we all are.



Here’s what I mean. Have you noticed how even the irreligious are often sending their “positive thoughts” to the victims?





How exactly does it work to send your positive thoughts to someone? Is it like sending a deposit through the tube at the bank drive-through? Does anyone ever receive these thoughts?


I appreciate the kind notion, but something bigger is going on, psychologically. I’m reminded of what happened in Communist Russia in the 1950s. One of their periodicals offered this advice to its atheist population:




  “If you meet with difficulties in             

 your work, or suddenly doubt your abilities, think of him—of Stalin—and you will find the confidence you need. If you feel tired in an hour when you should not, think of him—of Stalin—and your work will go well. If you are seeking a correct decision, think of him—of Stalin—and you will find that decision.”[1] 











It turns out that #Stalindidntfixanything and positive thoughts don’t stop massacres either. But what each of these examples show is that you and I were made to set our hearts and minds on Someone or Something greater than ourselves… to connect and to communicate, if even just in our thoughts.



And that’s why I would personally recommend that you #dontstoppraying. You were made to talk to God. If it seems like He’s not listening, talk to Him about that. If you feel thankful for something, talk to Him about that.

GK Chesterton once said, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful, and he has no one to thank.”




Unless you still think Stalin is a good option.









[1] Quoted by Philip Yancey in Prayer – Does It Make Any Difference?