The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 23, 2013

Pray for those who scoff at the power of prayer

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — As the monster storm ground its way through Moore Monday afternoon, chewing up and spitting out everything in its path, there was only one thing anyone could do. Pray.

The prayers seem to have worked, though 24 people died in the grinding maelstrom that leveled schools, businesses and entire neighborhoods, many more survived.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the call for prayers for Moore and the immediate environs went out.

The Twitter-verse lit up with the hashtag, #PrayForOklahoma, with thousands of tweets coming from across the world. They came from sports stars, entertainers, politicians and ordinary people, alike.

Everyone from President Obama to NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, from evangelist Billy Graham to singer and actress Selena Gomez, from L.A. Lakers star Pau Gasol to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted their prayers for our state.

All of which thoroughly upset British comedian Ricky Gervais.

Gervais, who starred in the original British TV version of “The Office,” as well as films like “Night at the Museum,” responded to tweets from music stars like Beyonce, Rihanna and Katy Perry urging prayers for the people affected by the storms, with this snarky retort, “I feel like an idiot now ... I only sent money.”

He followed that up with another slam directed toward those offering prayers for the devastated areas of our state. “Praying for something but not doing anything to make it happen has the same effect as writing to Santa and not letting mummy read the letter.”

Actually, Gervais’ point is well taken, and is supported by Scripture, which might unnerve and upset the proud atheist.

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” it says in James 2:26.

Prayer alone will not rebuild Moore, that will take hard work and a great deal of money.

That hard work has already begun, and money is pouring in from all over the nation.

Plenty of folks are praying, but they also are doing.

Gervais’ assertion that prayer itself is worthless, however, is preposterous.

For believers, prayer is action. Active prayer does not comprise mere platitudes or lukewarm wishes, but is a direct communication with the Almighty, a deliberate intercession for those in need.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed,” says Psalm 107.

“Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you,” Matthew 7:7 tells us.

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” says Matthew 21:22.

Prayer did not keep the storm from destroying property and taking lives, prayer will not provide shelter for the homeless, or rebuild shattered buildings. But prayer will comfort, prayer will encourage, prayer will strengthen, prayer will provide the grieving a shoulder to cry on, an arm to lean upon as they move into an uncertain future, one tentative step at a time. Prayer will help rebuild shattered lives.

Prayer will not keep bad things from happening, but it will help those affected better deal with them once they happen. Those who perished in the storm, and those whose bodies were spared but shattered, those whose homes and businesses were tossed and broken as if by a petulant child, were not alone, the Lord was with them, as he will be with them in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

God bless all who are doing everything they can to help the victims of this week’s tornadoes, whether through hard work or through their donations — atheists and believers alike.

And bless those, likewise, who are praying, for as James 5:16 tells us: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Oh, and we might offer a prayer for Ricky Gervais, too. It can’t hurt.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.