Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Are You Praying for Paris?


#PrayForParis has been a common hashtag on Twitter and Facebook since the terror attack in Paris, France on November 13, 2015. About 129 people were killed in coordinated attacks around Paris, and over 300 more injured.

Should we pray? Absolutely we should. I spent some time in prayer Saturday evening that God's will and his justice would be done, and that through this tragedy people would be saved, repenting of sin and coming to know the Lord Christ as Savior.

But the call to pray is not in and of itself a noble thing. We can pray with the wrong kind of motivation (James 4:3). A person can pray to the wrong god (Jeremiah 14:22). ISIS is praying for Paris, too. They're praying Paris would be destroyed.

You could argue that I'm taking #PrayForParis out of context: "No one is posting #PrayForParis and calling for them to be destroyed," you might say. But let me ask you something: What are you praying for? Are you praying for the victims and their families? Good! But what are you praying will happen for them? That they would find peace? What kind of peace are you asking for when you pray that?

I hope you understand my heart as I'm asking these questions. I'm not trying to be cynical. I want to help you, and I want God's name to be glorified. That's all I am after here. Do you know what you are praying for when you are asking God for peace?

The Bible describes the peace of God as being beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7). That's because the peace that comes through Jesus Christ is not as the world gives (John 14:27). It is peace with God (Romans 5:1). It is understanding that if we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we are no longer under his wrath (John 3:36). That's real peace.

Is that the kind of peace you're praying for? A peace that's more than just relaxation of the body and a stillness in the soul? Are you praying for peace that comes through forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ our Lord?

More specifically, let me ask you this: Are you praying for repentance in Paris, France?

There are some who will decry what I am saying here as being "too soon." It is never too soon to call anyone to repentance. I have stood at the hospital bed of a man dying from COPD brought on by exposure to Agent Orange, and though he was clearly suffering, in love I told him to repent of his rebellion against God and know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

In that moment, politics didn't matter. Anyone's opinion of past events that resulted in the respiratory condition that this man was dying from were not going to save him. What mattered was the man's soul. He did not know the Lord, and he needed to. And that moment was the only moment I had to pray for his rebellious heart, sing hymns to him, and tell him about Jesus.

This is how we should be praying for Paris, France -- standing by the hospital bed of a sick culture, calling upon them to repent of their sin and know Christ as Savior. If you care about Paris, that is what you will pray for. It is never too soon to preach the gospel and call the lost to repentance.

Do you understand that the worst of the Paris carnage occurred at the Bataclan, a concert venue where a band called Eagles of Death Metal were playing? Eighty people were killed there. Have you looked up Eagles of Death Metal? One of their songs goes like this...
Who'll love the devil?
Who'll sing his song?
Who will love the devil and his song?
I'll love the devil!
I'll sing his song!
I will love the devil and his song
The next verse is, "Who will kiss the devil? I will kiss the devil on his tongue!" That's the first song of theirs I came up with just Googling "Eagles of Death Metal Lyrics."

Please understand, this is not me pointing a finger at eighty people and saying here's why they deserved to die. We all deserve to die because all of us have, at some point, followed the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). But God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, saved us from death by giving us life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6).

The terrorists were following the devil also. They were not listening to God. They were listening to the father of lies who's been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Whether we're talking about the terrorists or those being entertained by singing the devil's praises, they must turn from their sin and follow Jesus or they will suffer consequences that are far worse (Matthew 10:28).

Jesus was once asked about a terrorist attack. Pilate had slaughtered some worshipers in the temple and mixed their blood in with their sacrifices. Jesus said, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2).

For many that night, victim or terrorist, it is too late to repent. It is appointed for a man once to die, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For many who live on in the aftermath of that attack, they have not yet learned that they need to turn from following the devil and repent of their sin. It is for them we must pray.

Did you know that there is a social media push right now to try to send Eagles of Death Metal to the top of the charts with their cover of Duran Duran's song Save a Prayer? Here's the lyrics of that tune...
You saw me standing by the old
Corner of the main street
And the lights are flashing on your window sill
All alone ain't much fun
So you're looking for the thrill
And you know just what it takes and where to go 
Don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
No, don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
If you go on, you'll see that the song is clearly about a one-night stand. The singer, Simon Le Bon, is trying to coax a woman into going to bed with him. "Don't say a prayer for me now, save it 'til the morning after." In other words, let's get our "thrill" on right now, and then pray for my forgiveness in the morning. But for some, the morning is too late.

This is the song that Paris and the many who are "praying" for them want to see rise to the top of the charts as some kind of remembrance anthem. When you change your social media profile picture to a French flag overlay and say that you stand with Paris, is that what you're standing with? (Admittedly, I'm a little more cynical about French flag-waving. ISIS bombed a Russian plane on October 31 killing 224 people, but we didn't start waving Russian red and gold.)

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with changing your Facebook page to blue, white, and red. You may have sincere and heart-felt intentions, not just because everyone else is doing it. This still comes back to the question: Why are you doing that? What exactly do you want to have happen?

God is doing something, even in the aftermath of violence, that we would not understand even if he told us what it was (Habakkuk 1:5). Let your heart's desire be that God's will would be done, and that all would come to a saving knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

Pray for Paris. Pray for repentance.