By Ross Engel –
When tragedy strikes, the thing to do these days is to start a hash tag campaign. It is short, easy to do, and takes no effort or action on the part of the individual. By posting with the right hash tag, everyone else who is using the same hash tag knows that you stand in solidarity with them. Some events even come with their own background pictures that you can use to change your social media profile picture to really show your support. One of the best things about a hash tag campaign is that the folks that don’t know about it or don’t use the hash tag, are an opportunity for the hash tag user to tout some moral superiority, even if they aren’t actually doing what has been hash tagged. Seriously, how many people actually are praying for whatever it is they’ve hash tagged?
I’m sure you’ve seen the phenomena on social media and the various news outlets. In the moments immediately following a disaster, social media erupts with things like #StandWith____ or #PrayFor____. Just a quick online search for those phrases produces an abundance of hash tag campaigns that have sprung forth from tragedy.
#PrayForManchester | #PrayForParis | #PrayForOrlando | #PrayForSyria | #PrayForWhatever
Some #PrayFor campaigns are more popular and celebrated than others. Some tragedies get more press and media attention than others, and so those are the “hot” and “hip” hash tags to participate in. It might also be safe to say that some #PrayFor campaigns more effectively fit a specific agenda or narrative and therefore get more attention as well.
But what happens when a tragedy happens to people that no one cares about? Where is the media attention or the hash tag campaigns for the slaughtering of the Coptic Christians in Egypt? There have been four separate instances of such tragedy and terror in Egypt since Christmas. Or what about when tragedy happens to people we consider to be our enemies? There have been some tragic attacks on Christians in Palestine, but no hash tag campaign for them. There was the embassy bombing by ISIS in Tehran, Iran, but somehow I doubt there will be a #PrayForTehran campaign on social media. No profile pictures will be changed to stand in solidarity with those enemies of America who were murdered by America’s enemies.
In the midst of the ever increasing #PrayFor campaigns, as well as the reality that not every tragedy is deemed worthy of a #PrayFor campaign, I am reminded of the way the Lord Jesus speaks of prayer.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven… When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:1,5-6
Jesus encourages His followers, us included, not to practice their righteousness for the purpose of being noticed and rewarded by others. He continues on to teach us that we are not to pray so that we would be seen and praised by others, for prayer is between us and God. Jesus isn’t prescribing that one must always lock themselves in their house to pray in their closet either, but He is instructing that prayer is to be done for the purpose of bringing our needs of body, mind, and spirit to our Heavenly Father, who hears and answers our prayers. Prayer is not done to show off to others. He then gives “The Lord’s Prayer” to His followers so that we might now how to pray.
When it comes to prayer, Jesus also tells us for whom we are to pray. His words aren’t always easy to hear or even welcomed in our ears. In Matthew 5 He instructs, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:43-45
Yes, we are to pray for our enemies, even the people who persecute or would kill us. It’s a tall order from our Lord, but it is a command that bears with it trust in God, who promises to be with us always, never leaving us or forsaking us. Trust in the same loving God who has promised us a Resurrection of our own flesh on the Last Day.
The next time a tragedy occurs. Pray for the families of the victims. Pray for the enemies and the conversion of their hearts. Pray for peace. Pray for those in harm’s way. Pray for strength to face the challenges ahead. Pray for it all. But always and especially pray the prayer of the martyrs and the saints, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.” You don’t need a hash tag for that!