What’s your response when someone is hurting?
A fashionable trend is to send good vibes and positive thoughts. Of course, the intent is to encourage, but I wonder if thought is given to that message. Boiled down, it’s the equivalent of saying good luck. Good vibes is short for happy sensations and positive thoughts is an outlook. While it’s true that a positive attitude is healthy, it doesn’t negate reality, only our approach to it. So does sending good vibes and positive thoughts result in comfort or does our longing for encouragement go deeper? Good wishes may be positive, but they’re powerless. That’s not a cynical perspective, it’s a Biblical principal.
James 5:16 says “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James moves us beyond the practice of wishful thinking to the principle of coming into the presence of The Living God.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colosse, he set the tone with these words: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.” He spoke of the hope laid up in heaven for them because they had received the truth of the Gospel. And then he revealed the nature of effective, fervent prayer. “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)
Make no mistake, the Colossians were in need of encouragement. They lived in a day of great tribulation. Alongside a corrupt government, immorality was rampant, persecution was real and martyrdom was possible. Paul prayed specifically to their needs. He petitioned God to fill them with knowledge, wisdom, understanding, strength, patience, joy and assurance of eternal life that was secured for them through Jesus. He offered them the courage to press on.
Perhaps the adoption of nice sounding phrases reveals an uncomfortable truth in our day. We have forgotten how to pray. We’ve stopped making God’s Word a priority and function without knowledge of His promises and power. The unwillingness to know God leaves a void that longs to be filled. And so we try, but there are no substitutes.
Scripture instructs believers to rejoice in hope, to have patience in tribulation and to continue steadfastly in prayer. None of that relies on a chance outcome. Prayers are always heard and answers are never random. They may not always be to our liking, but they are consistently in our best interest. The God who holds all things together sees what we do not and promises that He is working for the good of the redeemed.
Luck and prayer are incompatible. The one we chose to live by may be the difference between discouragement and courage. Which one will you offer the world around you?