To be clear, I don't fault worldly people for their irrational opposition to the message and mission of Christians. Despite all the good that Christ-followers have done down through the ages, and continue to do to this very day, the Apostle Paul explained it all a long time ago:
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
This divine wisdom came flooding back into my mind when I saw this intellectually bankrupt viral tweet from self-proclaimed anti-racism educator Tim Wise:
Scour the bowels of social media and you will undoubtedly see a number of hot takes that are similarly mere modern iterations of what philosophers through the ages have dubbed the "problem of pain." That is: why would an omniscient, omnipotent, loving God allow suffering to befall His creation(s)?
Thankfully, we need not dig deep into theological explanations or philosophical elucidations to have a ready-answer to those who voice these completely understandable, even if poorly-reasoned objections to Christian prayer amidst man's current predicament.
First, notice the author exhibits a glaring misconception of God. The underlying premise behind Tim Wise's objection seems to be that any eternal God must function as some sort of glorified Santa Claus, doling out favors to all His "good" children, while dispensing lumps of coal or coronavirus on the "bad" ones. Perhaps that's an expression of a god that is embraced by some, but it is unquestionably not the God revealed in the Christian Scriptures.
As the Apostle Paul makes clear when addressing the Greeks at the Areopagus, God does not exist to please us, He exists to be pleased by us and worshiped by us. Therefore, if you're operating from a perspective that says your belief in God, or your good deeds, somehow compels Him to spare you from the temporal consequences of sin that we rebellious humans invited into His perfect creation, your quarrel isn't with the biblical God; it's with the false, humanistic counterfeit of Him you've created for yourself.
Secondly, the author demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of prayer – its purpose and its power. When Jesus taught His followers to pray, He modeled a practice focused on glorifying and exalting the Father, not one fixated on self. The purpose is to calibrate the rebellious human heart on the way and will of God, transforming our minds to His, seeking a supernatural wisdom to guide our decisions and illuminate our understanding.
In no way does that direct communication with God preclude a believer, or even remotely discourage him, from applying his reason and intellect towards solving the dilemmas or hardships that may surround him. Far from a substitute for action, prayer precedes, motivates, and accompanies it.
Finally, it's also important to note the impotence of the argument itself – one that purports to hold both the power of God and the power of prayer to a standard that isn't equally applied to other approaches presumably more acceptable to the author.
For example, weeks ago, after posting an article I wrote defending Vice President Pence's prayer meeting with his coronavirus response team, I noticed a commenter had snarked back, "It's been a week and things are worse than ever. Prayer doesn't seem to be working."
Now obviously this is another example of the two errors I described above, but notice also the standard of rendering judgment applied by the commenter: since prayers for the end of the virus have not yet yielded an end to the virus, prayer is ineffectual and should be abandoned.
Are we to apply the same standard to science and technology? After all, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, biotech firms, and countless other scientists have been working diligently to stop the virus. Tim Wise's original tweet recommended more science and more money. But we have been pouring both at the problem for weeks. Would it be scholarly and fair to conclude, "They've been at it for weeks and things are worse than ever … science doesn't seem to be working?"
Of course not. This is sophistry, and its unbecoming of those who often seem so desperate to be known for their intellects. Personally, I find myself disinclined to publicly comment on or even re-post epidemiology takes on a viral outbreak I am largely uneducated about.
It would seem appropriate if those who are grossly uninformed about both the nature of prayer and the character of God would adopt the same approach.