Why pray to God when people don’t listen anyway?

Why pray to God when people don’t want to listen anyway? Seriously, why would a Christian Pastor say, “We ought to pray as if it all depends on God”? And to make it worse, follow it up with, “But we have to work as if it all depends upon us”?

At least the monkeys in the image have a common theme.

One doesn’t say anything.
One doesn’t see anything.
One doesn’t hear anything.

That’s supposed to represent speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil.

But the theme from the pastor is – say something that sounds good.
And then follow it up with, even though that sounded good, I’m not going to do it.

What makes the whole thing so sad is that both of these themes are representative of the conservative, Republican, and all too often the Christian approach to gun violence in America.

Some pretend everything is OK. Just blame it on mental illness. And to then do nothing. That’s the speak, see and hear no evil.

Others pretend they’re going to seek God’s help. And then do their own thing anyway.

I sometimes ask, how did we get here? Well, this goes a long way to explaining why we’re here. And why we’re not going to either stay here – or get even worse.

So we’re going to look at faith and deeds, faith and no deeds, and no faith or deeds.

Why pray to God when people don’t listen anyway?

If you read carefully, you noticed I wrote, But the theme from the pastor is say something that sounds good.

The pastor said something that sounded good? But the implication is that it wasn’t? Well, it’s not an implication. He did say something that wasn’t good. Maybe it was a poor choice of words? But the conclusion indicates it wasn’t.

Here’s the background on what’s happening, from ‘We cannot remain on the sidelines:’ After Texas mass shooting, faith leaders call for action after prayers.

Faith without deeds

I wholeheartedly agree with the first statement in the article.

As a reverend whose closest friend in the ministry is a Nashville pastor whose church lies 3 miles from where a shooter killed six at a private Christian school in March, Stephen Sanders absolutely believes in the importance of thoughts and prayers.

“You have to give time for people to grieve,” said Sanders, lead pastor at Oak Hill United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. “We have to care for people in response to a tragedy. But my faith tradition says that faith without works is dead. If all we do is pray to feel good about ourselves, I think we have a very trivial faith.”

If anything, what Pastor Sanders said is an understatement. Faith without deeds, according to James in the Bible, is less than trivial.

Faith and Deeds

Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Jas 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

Faith with no action

Sadly, the article points out what we see far too often with conservative Republicans in government leadership positions.

In the wake of all-too-common mass shootings, a predictable pattern unfolds: Amid calls for tighter gun restrictions, some GOP lawmakers face backlash for instead insisting the focus should be on “thoughts and prayers” for victims and their families.

Christians who support this kind of response from leaders they support are quick to point out that God appoints our leaders, so we must support them, because that’s what God wants.

But wait!

Doesn’t the Bible show us that God often allows wicked people to rise to power in order to teach the people, us, something? For instance, that we need to call out to God for help? Or that it’s our wicked ways that led these people to come to power? And isn’t that especially true when we’re the ones who voted those people into power?

How does it follow that God appointed our leaders when it’s us who voted for them? And then, when they do something that’s decidedly not Christian, claim that it must be followed because God put them there? All the while, it’s people who put our leaders in power because they wanted to force everyone to do the unChristian things we wanted to do in the first place!

That’s circular reasoning, with a false premise. If anything, it’s God giving us what we want to show us that we’re not following His desires. How can we look at all these mass shootings and then just say it’s God’s will that we have all these weapons, so let’s just pray because that’s all God wants us to do?

Doesn’t God want us to help all the victims here? And, let’s be honest, if we claim the problem is mental illness, then the victims are certainly those shot, whether injured or killed. And their family members. And their loved ones.

But what about the mentally ill person who did the shooting? If you think all this gun violence is due to mentally ill people, whether that statement’s actually true or not, shouldn’t we be helping mentally ill people? I know, we don’t. But if our claim is that all shootings are from mentally ill people, then how can we just cast aside the mentally ill person? Because, as Christians, we should care for all people, including the mentally ill!

If we take that thinking even further, then if we cared for the mentally ill, then there would be no more mass shootings! So, why, Christian political leaders and those who support them, and Christian faith leaders, why aren’t we doing something for the mentally ill people?

According to political opinion, that would solve our homelessness problem as well. And a host of other issues. And yet, we just pray. Or worse, yet, we go through the motions of prayer. Or tell someone else to pray.

No faith or deeds.

That gets us to our pastor who said – We ought to pray as if it all depends on God but we have to work as if it all depends upon us”?

“We ought to pray as if it all depends on God,” said Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the 15,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, who was an evangelical adviser to former President Donald Trump. “But we have to work as if it all depends upon us.”

someone ought to pray to God …

Do you see the problem with that? Why it’s no faith or deeds?

We ought to pray as if it all depends on God

Here’s the thing with that word –ought.

It has a definition. Of course. But, do we use it that way? I dare say no.

Here’s the definition:

  1. (used to express duty or moral obligation):
    Every citizen ought to help.
  2. (used to express justice, moral rightness, or the like):
    He ought to be punished. You ought to be ashamed.
  3. (used to express propriety, appropriateness, etc.):
    You ought to be home early. We ought to bring her some flowers.
  4. (used to express probability or natural consequence):
    That ought to be our train now.

The dictionary.com definition shows the problem. The actual definition supposedly shows an obligation. However, the example, and the common application of the word today, shows something very different. Today, ought is either taken as a suggestion, or we just don’t care about obligations anymore.

Either way, when someone says, we ought to pray, I don’t believe it’s taken as an obligation. Not as an imperative. In other words, it’s not something we feel like we need to do. Yes, someone should. But not me.

… but we have to do it ourselves.

Ultimately, with the full statement in mind, does it even matter whether anyone prays or not? Quite simply, it does not matter! Why not? Because with the mindset of pray but do it ourselves, we’re not going to listen to anything God might say to us even if we did pray!

Do you know/remember The Lord’s Prayer? What about the words Jesus said before He gave us The Lord’s Prayer?

Let’s look at the introductory words. After all, if we’re not going to pray to God with the intention of listening to Him, then the prayer itself doesn’t matter, does it?

Conclusion – Why pray to God when people don’t listen anyway?

I firmly believe that, too often, we pray to God because we feel like we should. Certainly, because we want other people to see us doing it. Jesus told us as much.

But do we really expect any result? Even the Pastor in the 15,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas doesn’t seem to expect God to do anything.

I think that if we truly took the time to know God, to experience His love, to have even the tiniest faith and trust, our prayers would be so much more effective. And that God would answer.

I’m not going to say my faith is totally awesome, for even all that great, but my own experience tells me that when things get tough, when I really need God, and honestly reach out to Him, He is there, does answer, and that’s awesome.

The adjacent box has a link to a series I did on my other site about my ongoing experience with cancer over the past three and a half years, since 2019. No one wants to get cancer. You never really get cured. But these past few years have been amazing, because of Him.

God is worth praying to. And listening to. And then acting according to His will, not ours. Including not mine.

2 thoughts on “Why pray to God when people don’t listen anyway?

Add yours

  1. Hi, thank you for sharing. I agree with you and I want to add God listens indeed but he acts, or not, based on what he sees fit. As a parent, I do not give my children “everything” they ask for, and when I give it might not be immediatly as they ask, timing is another thing.


    1. You’re welcome. And thank you for your thought as well. Yes – God does always listen. If only we did the same. You make excellent points / comparison to parents and children.

      Have a blessed day,

      Liked by 1 person

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