When Prayer Just Doesn’t Work


If anyone has kept up with NFL football over the last week or so, I’m sure you’ve heard about the last second pass that Packer’s Quarterback Aaron Rodgers cannon-balled to Richard Rodgers for the game winning touchdown against the Detroit Lions. This is what sports fans call a storybook Hail Mary pass.

It’s called a Hail Mary pass because it’s like tossing up a prayer, in hopes that somehow, someway it will work.


We’ve all made these prayers before. I mean, even if you don’t believe in God, you’ve sent up a Hail Mary when you were driving too fast and those red and blue lights start flashing behind you. Or when the Powerball hit 200 million and you were willing to see if luck was in your favor. What about when you decided to hangout with your friends instead of prepare for that big exam and now it’s too late to cram.


We’ve all been there in one way or another. But as we look at many of the tragic events that are happening in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, our country and the world…I have to ask. Is a Hail Mary prayer all we have?

If this type of ineffective, empty, inconsistent kind of response to other’s tragedy is all those who believe in God have to offer, why even bother?

I mean, we see it so often on social media don’t we?

In recent news, it’s been, “my prayers are with California”. Before that it was Paris, Africa, Syria, Charleston, Ferguson and so on. If bad things are going to continue to happen, why don’t Christians just keep to themselves, put their heads down and stay put in the solace of the four walls of their church buildings; all the while complaining about how bad it is out there. And doing this while waiting for the rapture to come so we can leave this God-forsaken planet.

Unfortunately, that is just what we do sometimes. We stay closed in while cursing the darkness in fear. Then we use a Hail Mary prayer as an excuse to stay comfortable. I am guilty of this myself.

But this doesn’t mean that prayer is ineffective.  It means that it is incomplete.

In a letter written by James, the brother of Jesus around 45 AD, he mentions two inseparable components to effective prayer. These two parts of prayer have the potential to start movements that heal broken cities and restore communities from chaos.

These two ingredients are faith and action. Look at what he says:

James 2:15-18 NLT

15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

So prayers need faith and action to be effective. Faith in God alone, with no action is useless. Many times God answers our prayers by calling us to action. When we put some action on that thing…it has potential to change our communities, our country, our world.

Let’s put some action with our faith. We don’t have it all figured out, but City of Light Church has monthly hangout and city outreach events used to build relationships across racial and ethnic lines. As events grow, they are helping spur healthy conversation on race, poverty and other challenges that Greater Milwaukee faces. I invite you to join us.

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