Prayer, the World, and the Internet

Artist unknown

Rise up, Lord! Do not let man prevail; let the nations be judged in Your presence.
Psalm 9:19

This is the age of the internet, where we can conveniently access almost any information, at any time, anywhere. Through our social media sites, we're barraged by a steady stream of talk, talk, talk and photo upon photo. Instagram shots of someone's breakfast mingle with articles about the vanishing of Malaysia Airlines flight 270. Stark photos of Ukrainian protestors are exhibited alongside book pictures...gripes about the weather. That is the jarring and incongruous reality of the times in which we live.

The world is right there - with all its tragedy, triumph, and filth - each time I open Facebook or read the news, and this connectedness can grow to be very overwhelming. I sometimes feel the urge to live in deliberate ignorance, focusing solely on the things that are pleasant or under my control. I'm further tempted to dehumanize the horrors; to forget that the stories I hear are the real stories of real people.

But I have traveled. I have seen the faces and know the names of far people in far places. For me, distance can no longer be an excuse for dismissal. I have seen that, no matter how different we are - those faraway people and I - we all share the common bond of being formed in the image of God.

There is much that I have not experienced in my short span of years. There are many places that are still unknown and many people I have never met. But I've seen enough to know that God is always present, and that He will never be dismissive of those who are suffering. He always cares. And so must I.

Caring hurts. Oh, how it hurts! When I stretch out my arms and open my heart to the world, there is breaking and blood, and many tears. I am overwhelmed by the needs that I can not meet, I feel the wounds that are deeper than I can mend, and I fall to my knees and cry out to the God who binds up the brokenhearted. It is hard to walk this path of caring and feeling and pleading; to be reminded, over and over, of my own inadequacy. But I must know the brokenness before I can deeply and fully appreciate His healing. If I avoid the unrest, will I ever experience His peace that passes all understanding?

The most fervent of my prayers are those that are birthed in pain. It is when I am most fully aware of the old, abhorrent patterns of sin, death, and Hell that I cling most firmly, cry the most loudly, to the only One who can defeat the purposes of the Devil and make all things new. And He answers. He always answers.

Printed out in clumsy words, my journey looks dark and terrible, but it is glowing with redemption and endless hope because He is here. He keeps my heart tender and open and guides me away from cynicism or despair. I rest, secure in Him, as He reveals His plans and His victory. He shows me how His light will never be overcome by even the deepest darkness and that the loud clamoring of lies will never silence the truth. I see where He is moving. I see the lives that He is changing. I see all things - even terrible things - being purposed for His glory and the good of His children so that a numberless multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language, may someday be joined in the worship of our God.

I see that He always has a plan, and that it is always good.

God is the master of details, as well as the broad picture, and the architect of a purpose that encompasses individual and era, alike. So have you ever stopped to ask why?

Why did God, the wise and powerful Most High, place you here, in a connected, modern world that hums with information?

What purpose does He have for you?

The specific answers to those questions will, of course, be unique to each individual, but I would urge that one, overarching reason is so that each of us can be aware of what is happening in our world and respond to it in a Christ-honoring way. When the news headlines are permeated with tragedy, we must each choose how we will respond. Many of us will be unable to physically bring justice, comfort or peace to those who so desperately need it. But is that an excuse to turn aside and do nothing?

I would encourage you to wake up from your denial, step away from fear, despair, or cynicism, and join me in this song of faith and hope and a ringing plea for justice:

I will thank Yahweh with all my heart; 
I will declare all Your wonderful works.
I will rejoice and boast about You;
I will sing about Your name, Most High.

...You are seated on Your throne as a righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations:
You have destroyed the wicked;
You have erased their name forever and ever.
The enemy has come to eternal ruin;
You have uprooted the cities,
And the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
He has established His throne for judgment.

He judges the world with righteousness;
He executes judgment on the nations with fairness.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know Your name trust in You
Because You have not abandoned 
Those who seek You, Yahweh. 

Sing to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
Proclaim His deeds among the nations,
For the One who seeks an accounting
For bloodshed remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 

...The nations have fallen into the pit they made;
Their foot is caught in the net they have concealed.
The Lord has revealed Himself;
He has executed justice,
Striking down the wicked
By the works of their hands.

The wicked will return to Sheol -
All the nations that forget God.
For the oppressed will not always be forgotten;
The hope of the afflicted will not perish forever.

Rise up, Lord! Do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged in Your presence.
Put terror in them, Lord;
Let the nations know they are only men.
Psalm 9: 1 - 2; 4b - 12; 15 - 20