Is Prayer a Cop-Out?
I’m sure you’ve seen it—any time there is a national tragedy or terrible event, people of faith on social media post their prayers and get responses such as: “Don’t pray, do something!” The people who respond this way see prayer as a cop-out, an excuse for not doing anything. This can be really hurtful to the people posting prayers, since they see themselves as having the same goal as others: to right the wrong.
I think it is prudent, as much as it is possible, not to get mad at the people who reject the act of praying during times of hardship. Their response is coming from a place of pain and a desire for justice. However, their response also misses some important truths about prayer, which you may want to gently explain to them as you remind them you are working toward the same goal.
First off, as many people have noted, praying doesn’t automatically exclude taking other actions. There is not just one response a person can have to an issue. A person can pray and then do things like call their government representatives, go to protests, or volunteer their time. Prayer doesn’t exclude those other actions, but strengthens them.
Second, praying is far from doing nothing. It is commending an issue to God, who is all powerful and desires our good. This can be very difficult for people without faith to understand. If they don’t believe in God, then they see prayer as a useless plea that won’t have any effect. In fact, they might even see your prayer as an attempt to look like you are doing something without actually doing anything at all. This might be a hard thing to explain to other people, but remember that your goal is not to convince other people you are doing something worthwhile—it is to make a difference in whatever issue you are working on.
Perhaps you yourself have fallen into the belief that when you pray about an issue, your job is done. That’s not actually true. Prayer is not a one-way communication, but a conversation. When you ask God to intervene in a situation, listen to what He says and where He may be prompting you. God is omnipotent, of course, but so often, He desires to work through us. When you pray, it just may be that He is calling you to say yes and take another action in addition to praying.
The next time someone says that prayer is only a cop-out, take heart in knowing that prayer is the ultimate good. When you entrust something to God, He will always come through, though perhaps not in the way you expect. But remember, also, to listen to where God is prompting you in response to your prayer. If you let Him, He can use you for extraordinary good.