On Boston, Prayer, and James

As almost everyone knows, the Boston Marathon Bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured yesterday. After hours of a citywide lockdown, and a massive manhunt, the suspect was finally captured. Boston has lost a lot of money, business, and shed many tears in the last few days—but it gained something much more important than those… or did it?

Something that kept popping up on Facebook, Twitter, and even in daily conversation was the phrase: “Praying for Boston!” But I have to ask—are people actually praying for Boston? I’ve heard that phrase come out of several people’s mouths who, by and large, have no religious leanings. These are people I would never have thought: this guy/girl is a praying person.

Whether that’s my problem for judging them, or their problem for not actually living according to the Word of God (James 1:22-25), I won’t explore here. But I think this is a great example of a problem most Christians—serious, praying, Bible-reading Christians—face. Our natural reaction to our friends breaking up, our sister not getting the job she wanted, or even the bombing of a major city’s marathon is, “I’ll be praying for you.” This is a good thing. We ought to pray for others, and their problems. We ought to carry their burdens with them; we ought to confess and pray with them (James 5:16)!

But how many of us actually pray? I’ll admit, I’ve told several people I’d pray for them, and didn’t. I know friends and Church family who have even asked forgiveness for not praying when they said they would.

Prayer is serious. It is “powerful and effective,” contrary to popular American opinion. Prayer is our communication with God, and we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2-3). Praying for others is a noble thing, but when we say we will do it, we need to actually do it. When we say we’ll pray, we need to pray. We need to let our “yes” be yes and “no” be no (James 5:12).

The question is this: are we in the business of praying for people or just simply ‘thinking’ about them? And in the grand scheme of things, which one actually does something?