Prayer Won’t Be Enough…

This morning I watched a picture montage of the tragedy that is Haiti today. I watched as THOUSANDS of people stood in line in the HOT sun waiting, hoping and fighting over bags of beans, rice and oil. Many of them waited for hours just to be told that there wasn’t enough and the aid group had given out all the food they had. The already hungry people of Haiti are now even hungrier in the aftermath of the earthquake. I was struck with the reality that as Christ followers, when it comes to those in need, prayer alone will not be enough.

I had a couple interesting and diverse comments from people on a Twitter post I put out on the subject. Some agreed, some totally disagreed and said that prayer is sometimes all you can do. Personally, I could not disagree more with that statement. I would love to hear your thoughts on prayer and the needs of the poor. Do you think that it, alone, will be enough from what you know about what Jesus commands us to do?

Below is my response to the person that may disagree with me on this statement. I think Jesus sets the record straight on how we ought to engage those in need. I want to make clear that I am a FIRM advocate that prayer is an essential component to following Jesus, but, on it’s own it will not meet the needs of the poor. Here is my response:

Twitter: Watched a piece on @CNN about the lack of food in #Haiti. It’s not enough just to pray we must mobilize what we have for those in need!

I look at Matthew 25 where Jesus delivers his poignant and final sermon on ‘The Sheep and The Goats’. As you read that passage, NO WHERE, does Jesus mention that if we ‘pray’ for the least of these that it’s somehow serving their needs. Interesting, because I think Jesus (of all people) knew and understood prayer and the power of it. I find it interesting that these were His words in His final sermon:

Matthew 25:34
34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

When he says those things, the questions come:

44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He makes this next BOLD statement regarding 34-36 to answer the question and it’s interesting that He never ONCE mentions prayer. He mentions physical, tangible ways in which we serve Him when we serve others. The outcome of ‘when’ we do these things comes in this next verse:

45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

He then talks about what happens to ‘the goats’ or those that did not live these things out:

46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I’ve heard it said that Matthew 25 is not so much concerned about the ‘ROOT’ of salvation, but, about the ‘FRUIT’ of salvation. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, you cannot LOVE me and NOT engage in the plight of the less fortunate.

Again, I observe, PRAYER alone will not be enough to meet the call of what Jesus asks of us to develop as the fruit of our salvation. I’m not saying dismiss prayer, but, I am saying we better do more than just pray according to Jesus. My prayer is that Jesus would give me the courage and heart to serve the way He wants me to serve. I hope it’s your prayer too.

I’d LOVE your thoughts on this post. What do you think?

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37 responses to “Prayer Won’t Be Enough…

  1. Good Points, Brian. I think as Christians we use prayer as a ‘catch-all’ sometimes. Feeling Sick? I’ll pray for you. Having marital problems? I’ll pray for you. It’s almost accepted in Church Society as a replacement for our time and resources. If God is reflected in His people, then why would we not show compassion as He has shown us. I understand as young people, it’s hard to step out in faith with our finances, it’s hard for my family as well, but at times things like this come to remind us how little holding our finances to our chests really gets us.

  2. I think you’re pretty much dead on here Brian! I think too many Christians use prayer as an easy way out. While it’s in no way a wasted effort, it’s still trying to keep distance from actually getting involved. Morgan Freeman said it all in “Bruce Almighty” when he tells Jim Carrey “You want to see a miracle? Be the miracle”. True words even if they didn’t understand what that meant. Christ would reach out to those that are in dire need. Miracles can happen simply because someone decided not to keep their distance from the problem.

  3. What are we if we are not the TANGIBLE “hands & feet” of Jesus? If that not what he commanded us to be in the Great Commission? To go and make disciples of all nations? That will INDEED require more than prayer.

    To me it’s like seeing someone on fire as you hold a bucket of water, and praying that God would put the flames out. By no means, is our God anything but all-powerful or able to do just that, but that would be a ludicrous thing to do.

    God gives us abundant resources to use to serve others in need like the people of Haiti.

    Perhaps, while we are praying that God would just simply help the people affected by the earthquake, He is already answering those requests by equipping us to be the catalysts…

  4. Great thoughts, Brian, I totally agree with your take on Matthew 25. Prayer is obviously crucial, but I think that often the importance of prayer can be used to excuse those of us who have the means to help in material ways from doing so. Prayer can end up being cathartic for us, which is dangerous. I don’t understand how middle class Christian America can look upon the suffering in Haiti and think that all we all called to do is pray.

    I am reminded of a video I once saw in church where the pastor was in the front seat of his car, his kids were in the back, and they were driving through the drive-thru at In-n-Out. Upon reaching the pick-up window, his kids started squealing for food, and the pastor proceeded to take the food, stuff his own face with it, all the while praying that God would provide food for his kids. The point of the video, of course, is that often we have the means to be the answer to our prayers but fail to do so.

    We are kidding ourselves if we think that we should only give resources but not pray for the people of Haiti, but we are similarly kidding ourselves if we pray but don’t sacrifice materially to meet their needs.

    Again, great thoughts. Thanks for writing this.

  5. Brian,

    I could not agree more with you. I recently had this same conversation with a member of my church and was grieved to hear something from someone who loves the Lord so much! I have found that even if we are only to pray for those in need, what would it hurt to help as well. I would think that even if we can pray, to go above and beyond for the Lord and ministering to others is something that all of us should want to do.

  6. Aren’t we called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, the salt of the earth…surely this means more than just prayer…we need to act. Look at the life of Jesus, did he simply pray…errrrr…NO! He prayed and acted – we should do the same.
    Peace and love

  7. Hey Brian!

    I agree, but I’m sensitive to those who don’t have the resources like we do.

    I didn’t realize how much the people from my church are financially in need. Our demographics are hard-up for cash. We decided to find alternative means to raise support 🙂

    It’s been a blessing to see God move!

    If I get a chance to go to Haiti, I’m calling you up to see if you want to go!!!

    • hey bianca!!!

      I agree with you completely. What I don’t see Jesus making this passage about is money. I think the point of the passage is to increase our heart for the poor. It’s like Jesus just saying…Hey, if you love me you won’t forget them. If you are going to bear the fruit of my heart your going to need lots of mercy.

      I don’t see Jesus anywhere in those verses talking about money, however, I do believe it is implied. It’s implied that we would never let JESUS go hungry or thirsty or be a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison. His question to us is why would it be any different with His children or our brothers/sisters?

      I think money is one way we can give and if you don’t have money what do you have?

      Some of us have time and can get mobile and go for 10 days, a month, a year or until the job is done. Others of us know the guy who makes the clothes that could clothe the naked. Some of us have some Doctor friends in our network and we need to help them get to the sick to make them well. Others of us have a network we could leverage to do some serious fund-raising to get the food/water on the ground or to actually get those available people mobile in to places like Haiti, lest we forget about our own backyard.

      I really do believe it’s a collaborative, all parts of the body working together, kind of effort to engage those less fortunate. I also believe that we need to engaging those in need, in our day to day lives, more frequently too. We shouldn’t need a Haiti type incident to wake us up every few years. This is spiritual DNA kind of stuff.

      I think we are becoming a generation that is more and more in tune with this idea. I hope the church will continue to move forward with wiping out things like poverty, hunger, thirst and homelessness. There are enough resources in the church even just in America, if we all gave like God asked us to give, that we could seriously tackle some of the major issues on the Matthew 25 list.

      We must work together and do whatever part we can to make it happen. This is the invitation!!

  8. I disagree…I understand we are a rich nation..but each person is in their own battle…for some prayer is all you can give….it is enough! I have epilepsy…I am confined to my home…I can not drive or work…I wasn’t even able to make it to church yesterday, because of constant seizures. I have a compassionate heart, but all I can do is pray…you don’t have to agree with me, but I have peace in my heart that Jesus is thankful for my prayers…..

    • hey lauri…i definitely had no intention of making you feel bad or singled out about your position. Obviously, your context gives great insight to your response.

      in the end, YOU are the one we should be TANGIBLY serving. i hope people (the Church) are coming around you to serve you and love you in your sickness.

  9. Hi Brian, a couple of observations. I think that we often forget that Jesus was equally concerned about those who were not poor, but as we saw from His interaction with the rich young ruler, his message often falls on def ears. People who are wealthy tend (not as a rule, but as a tendency) to see their security as resting in tangible goods. Those who are poor see their physical insecurity and seem more apt to see their spiritual insecurity more easily (again, tend, not as a rule.) Don’t get me wrong; the devastation in Haiti is heartbreaking. But how often do we think about the spiritual devastation on Wall St.? In Hollywood? Indeed, these folks also need salvation, but we don’t see their “need.” (Again, I’m not disagreeing with you, just looking at it from a different angle.) A lot of people are keen on social justice right now, and I don’t dispute that Jesus was concerned with the down trodden. But I think that Christians should be even more concerned with Spiritual Justice (not instead of, but independent of social class.) This gets me back to your original question: Is prayer enough? It depends…enough for what? Enough to feed and care for the devastation in Haiti? No…certainly we can pray for them, but at some point, someone needs to act. But will actions save their soul? No. Prayer and action go hand in hand throughout the Bible, but we need to take care that our actions don’t replace or stand in for our prayer. Likewise, we must take care that our prayers don’t become our sole activity. Right actions come from a right heart. But right actions don’t right the heart (although they can make you feel better about yourself, which is worthless in an eternal sense…indeed, Jesus said Blessed are the poor in spirit…the broken, those who have a right view of their corrupt heart.) But I digress…Prayer enough? No. Actions enough? No.

    • I do see your point about Salvation and with it is some validity. I think to assume that the ‘poor’ are Spiritually depraved any different from the rest of society (Wall St., Hollywood, etc..) in a conversation like this could come off as slightly unengaged, so I do step cautiously into this dialogue.

      I believe that the way we engage people in life should have a deep lens for their spiritual concern. As Christ followers we’re always to look for the opportunity to help people grab on to the hope that is only in Jesus, but, I think it’s done best when we’re in relationship with people. When we know their story and they know ours.

      What I don’t see Jesus saying in Matthew 25 is ‘assume they are all going to hell and as you hand out water bottles make sure to get them to pray the sinners prayer’. I think he could have given us the Salvation formula in that passage if He wanted to, but, He didn’t…He just said go do these things for the least of these and you’ll be serving me and He makes a HUGE point to draw out the specific kinds of people in this passage, namely the needy. I’m not saying give up on the rich, but, I am saying let’s not relegate this passage to a place where it didn’t go.

      Obviously, if an opportunity came to do some heart ministry in the midst of quenching thirst, feeding the hungry or on a lunch break with the guy on Wall St. and we skip that…well…that’s a missed moment that shouldn’t be missed. Hopefully we’re walking in the Spirit and will know the moving of His heart and voice telling us when to and when not to. Whether rich or poor when it comes to Salvation we have to walk in the Spirit.

      I think the church contingency that is over-concerned with where this Social Justice movement is going and want to connect it to conversion rates need to take a long and hard look at Jesus final sermon. Often, those churches and those kind of people are the ones not engaged with the plight of the poor and therefore speak/stand as unengaged from an important part of the heart of God.

      We’ve got to take the Gospel to the whole world and let the hope of the Gospel be the hope of the Gospel. Salvation and Social Justice are very different and don’t necessarily always fit together like a puzzle. Wouldn’t we all like it better if they did though. 🙂 We should always be looking for ways to help people connect the dots to salvation, but, often times Social Justice won’t be connected to Salvation and I think Jesus speaks directly to meeting the physical needs of the poor in Matthew 25.

      The prayer should be for the Salvation of all that we come into contact with, but, let’s not keep that as a wall in the way of serving the needs of the poor.

      Here’s a question to throw out there to your point: Why didn’t Jesus talk about serving the rich with the same passion that He did about the poor?

  10. it amazes me that people who call themselves followers of Christ sit in their warm houses with full bellies and say that all they can do is pray. in reality all they “want” to do is pray and God forbid their life is disrupted or inconvenienced by someone else. if we who believe with anticipation that our Lord Jesus is returning again soon would pull our thumbs out of our mouths and attempt to act like Christ, i believe we would see the love of God going forth into all the nations as it was intended to.

  11. I don’t think it’s fair to make people who truly don’t have the financial or material resources to help feel that their prayers are inadequate.

    • I want to be clear that this post is not directly related to financial capability to help. I think there are MANY ways in which we can serve the needs of the less fortunate if our financial situation doesn’t allow us to give that way.

      I am saying that we need to be more intentional about how we engage those in need though. If you can’t give money and prayer isn’t enough…what else can you give?? Any thoughts?

      • Well obviously we all have TIME. If someone is physically able to help I’m sure there are places that are taking collections of food, water and other basic lif necessities. And I’m sure those places couls always use the help collecting, sorting and packaging those goods for shipment. Maybe a good subject for someone who has a large following on Twitter or a blog that is read by many people would be to give out information like that. Where people can go, here in the states, to help get the supplies collected that need to get to Haiti, or wherever. I really don’t know how relief efforts work.

      • spelling fail. Sorry.

    • some great places you can help with in your community:

      Food for the Hungry: http://fh.org
      Habitat for Humanity: http://habitat.org/
      Charity Water: http://www.charitywater.org/

      others may have some ideas for you too.

  12. I don’t think Brian is speaking absolutely. I don’t think he means that if you have $2 to your name you should give it to Haiti. My interpretation, at least, was that if we have the resources to take physical action above prayer, why would we not?

  13. I think some of the people in conversation are thinking that the sole focus of this conversation is helping people in Haiti. Heck, I don’t have the funds or resources to fly to Haiti tomorrow, but I could rattle off a list real quick of places/people to serve right here in our community.

    Let’s not lose sight of the point Brian is trying to make here…

  14. Sorry…I mean physical action BEYOND prayer

  15. I am 100% with you on this. They need our MONEY!

    It even bugs me when people insist that the only way to help is to send blankets, medical supplies, food, etc.

    There are some great organizations that can do that a lot more effectively than we can.

    What are the chances you’re going to buy a bag of rice and mail it to Haiti? Not too bloody likely…

    Great post Brian. Exited to connect with you and serve with the CFCC together.

  16. Great post, Brian. I agree entirely.

    For me, I read James 2:15-16 in the same light:

    “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’–but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

    I see little practical difference between saying “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well” and saying “I’ll pray for you” in its place.

    As you say, prayer is essential, yes, but if that’s where our action stops…well…

  17. Pingback: Prayer Won't Be Enough… « BRIAN WURZELL :: BLOG |

  18. This is a great post Brian and responses from others.

    I know that your post is initially in regards to the tragedies in Haiti, but it led me in more directions than just that.

    We all have friends/family/coworkers/acquaintances/neighbors/whomever that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    It’s really been weighing on me that in these regards, prayer won’t be enough. I don’t think that we can just pray that they one day will begin a relationship with Him, but never follow with action to help them get there. One day might be too late.

    We can’t just pray for their relationship with God/their saving, but never talk with them about Jesus, never give them a bible, never invite them to church, never act with the expectation that God will take care of it. When it comes to the eternal lives in Heaven for the people around us, we have to act because prayer won’t be enough.

  19. Brain, first and foremost I completely appreciate and admire your passion and heart for all people. I do truly love reading what you have to say and love the fact that you help bring light to what’s going on in the world. To answer your question in regards to “Is prayer enough for the people in Haiti” I would say for some people yes. Jesus promised that when he left he would send someone in his place, someone to lead and bring comfort to us, the Holy Spirit. My question would then turn into is the Holy Spirit enough? This is something I’ve been thinking about for several months now.

    We’ve done a little experiment in my family for about the past year with our “giving”. We’ve been giving according to where we feel the Holy Spirit leading us, and I can say it’s been amazing. Our giving has turned from a “have to” to pure joy. (the way I believe God intended it to be and from Paul’s letters to the early churches the way I think it should be, but this is another topic : ) ) So while I see the devastation in Haiti and my heart breaks and is heavy with grief for them, I have yet to feel the Spirit lead me to give financially, although I have prayed for the people of Haiti to feel God’s peace and safety through this time.

    Unfortunately I think “we” as followers of Christ have been conditioned to not trust the Holy Spirit who is alive in us as soon as we accept the amazing gift of Jesus’ salvation. Some people who read this may say that you can’t just rely on the spirit’s direction because people may not listen to it, or may use that as an excuse to do nothing. For me personally I have begun to fully trust that God, through his Holy Spirit, can lead me into loving and helping meet the needs of others each and every day. Whether that be tangibly paying bills for people who are out of work, bringing meals to sick families, writing songs for people who have lost someone, smiling and offering a warm hello to an old man walking by or any other thing I feel the Spirit leading me to do. So while prayer is not enough to meet the needs of others, prayer may be all that someone does in certain situations. I’ve prayed for Haiti not out of obligation, but out of a heavy heart for them. Much like I’ve helped meet the needs of others not out of obligation, but out of the persistent and real “feeling” / “leading” of the Holy Spirit. I’m wondering what others think/feel about the Holy spirits’ role in all of this. How much can we really rely on the “feeling” that we get from the Holy Spirit?

  20. As believers we are called to give everything in love like Christ gave his life for us. If all we can give is a smile, a shoulder to cry on and our time then that is what we need to do. Most of us have been blessed beyond our immediate needs and can give. We are our own solution to poverty, war and famine.

    If we could all just give and lend a hand to each other think of the message we would be sending.
    I keep going back to that line “….they will know we are Christians by our love….”

  21. re: brianwurzell.
    Excellent post !! I actually came across this post while searching scripture for an article i am writing. The premise for the article i am writing is, the necessity of Judeo-Christians to take action. First, allow me to say…Prayer is probably one of the single greatest tools we have. It is a very powerful weapon, that should never be underestimated. Prayer is our most direct line of communication, with our Father in Heaven, and His Son, our Lord. Although, It has become, almost cliche…to exclaim..” oh, I’ll pray for you..” or ” I’ll pray for ________ !! ”

    Prayer, as I stated…Is the probably the single greatest tool we have. Though, It still is only one of the tools..in our “toolbox” ! Just as every problem, is not a nail. Every solution…does not require a hammer. We have many weapons in our arsenal. We must use them all.

    In my opinion, when i receive the reply..” I’ll pray for you..!! ” …what i hear is …” I am too lazy to actually take action to help you…so, this is the best i can offer..”

    Perhaps when we are standing along side the river…and, your child falls in and is going under the water… Just maybe… ” I’ll will pray for him ” !! <

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