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The Rushmore Report: Mike Pence Responds to Texas Church Shooting

Vice President Mike Pence has responded to critics who have questioned the usefulness of prayer following last Sunday’s mass shooting at a church in Texas which left 26 people dead. “Right now, I truly believe that covering those families in prayer is making a difference in their lives, and it will continue to support those families and that community in the days ahead,” Pence told Fox News in an interview.

Online debate has unfurled across Twitter and other platforms in the wake of the massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, with some suggesting that prayer does not work if it can’t protect Christians at church.

“I’m a believer. I believe in prayer and I know that at this moment of such heartbreak and loss in that community that what most Americans are most able to do is pray for those families,” Pence said.

The vice president added, however, that prayer takes “nothing away from our determination to get to the bottom of what happened, to understand the why, to determine whether or not there were errors along the way.”

Authorities are investigating if and in what way existing laws and background checks were not properly applied to shooter Devin Kelley, who illegally purchased the guns he used in last week’s attack.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told Fox News in a separate interview that he stands by his offers of prayer, even though he was specifically targeted for his tweets.

Former “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Stand By Me” actor Wil Wheaton lashed out and wrote in response to Ryan’s prayer tweet earlier this week: “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of [expletive].”

Wheaton later apologized and explained he wasn’t trying to attack people of faith, though prayer continues being criticized in debates online.

“It’s disappointing. It’s sad, and this is what you’ll get from the far secular left. People who do not have faith don’t understand faith, I guess I’d have to say,” Ryan told Fox.

He added, “And it is the right thing to do – to pray in moments like this because you know what? Prayer works.”

The House Speaker blamed the “secular left” for much of the “polarization and disunity” in the country due to sentiments like that.

Prominent pastors, such as Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, California, told The Christian Post that while it is hard to understand God’s role in tragedies like church shootings, prayer is far from ineffective.

“The Bible does not promise anyone a pain-free life. In fact, Jesus himself said, ‘In this world you will have tribulation’ (John 16:33). Here is what I do know: these people that were gathered for worship at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, believed in and loved Jesus Christ,” Laurie added.

He said that the victims are now in God’s presence, “where there is ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasures forevermore’ (Psalm 16:11). All of their questions are answered; our questions will have to wait.”

Pastor Ronnie Floyd, president of National Day of Prayer and senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, separately told CP: “In this fallen world when the spirit of evil is raging, all things that happen are not good. Yet, our faith and hope remain in God alone. When we pray, we are depending on God for strength; when we do not pray, we choose to depend upon ourselves, which always leads to unbelief.”

About the Author

Stoyan Zaimov is a writer for The Christian Post.

C. S. Lewis

One of the most prominent minds of the 20th century was philosopher and author C. S. Lewis. As a young man, he met Joy Greshem, a poet. They established a strong friendship that grew into love. They eventually married, then Joy was diagnosed with cancer. After a hard battle, she died. But there were may ups and downs along the way.

During a period when Joy was responding well to treatment, a colleague of Lewis’ approached him with words of praise. “I know how hard you’ve prayed. God is answering your prayers,” he said.

Lewis replied, “I didn’t pray for that. I prayed because I can’t help myself. The power of prayer isn’t that it changes my circumstances, but that it changes my heart.”

Most of us practice what I call “outcome prayers.” We pray in order for God to change an outcome. But real spiritual maturity is marked by the man or woman who prays in order to get in touch with the Father out of a desire to change their heart.

Joy still died. But C. S. Lewis went on to change the world. But before he changed the world, God changed his heart.

How People Pray

Let’s tackle three issues about prayer. First, why do Christians put their hands together when they pray? This custom is not rooted in the Bible, but in Roman culture. In the ninth century, a man would put his hands together as a symbol of submission, and it was accepted by the Christian Church.

Second, did you know that people used to say “grace” before each meal? In ancient times, food spoiled quickly, sometimes causing death. Nomadic tribes were often poisoned from eating bad food. Before a meal, they would ask the gods to protect them, and after a meal, they thanked their gods for the “grace” by which they were still among the living.

Third, why do we say “amen” after a prayer? The word “amen” appears 13 times in the Old Testament and 119 times in the New Testament. The word originated in Egypt around 2500 B.C. It meant “hidden one.” That evolved to mean “so it is,” and was passed down to both Christians and Muslims.

And here’s a fourth question. If we really believe in the power of prayer and in the God of the universe, why don’t we pray more? I wish I had a good answer to that one.

The Rushmore Report: What Do Most Americans Pray For?

No matter how politics or culture changes, a majority of Americans say they’ve prayed at least one time in the last three months, according to a study just released by the Barna Group. Barna researchers surveyed 1,015 American adults ages 18 and older, 888 of whom identified themselves as Christians. Respondents were asked to answer: “What does the content of your prayers most often pertain to?”

The data shows that 62 percent of respondents who pray regularly do so “with varying motivations, the most common being to offer gratitude and thanksgiving.” Eighty-two percent say they most often pray silently and when they are by themselves.

Expressing gratitude in prayer is highest among baby boomers at 71 percent and is lowest among millennials at 53 percent.

The “needs of their family and community” are a prayer topic for Americans, with 61 percent identifying it as a motivator, and 49 percent pray out of a need for “personal guidance in crisis.”

Nearly 90 percent of praying American adults direct their prayers to “God” although they don’t all pray to the same deity. Addressing “God” was the most common response among almost every segment surveyed.

Only 24 percent pray for their government. (The other 76 percent have apparently given up.)

Roxanne Stone, Barna Group’s Editor-in-Chief, said, “Prayer is by far the most common spiritual practice among Americans.”

No matter how politics or culture shift, Americans keep on praying. Stone continued, “The vast majority of Americans – no matter their religious affiliation or non-affiliation – participate in some kind of prayer activity. Barna has found this to be true consistently over the last several decades. The numbers have barely changed from year to year.”

Stone added that it is good news that people have “active and personal” prayer lives and are “engaging with God outside their houses of worship and around the most intimate and vulnerable areas of their lives.”

She asked, “But what would it look like to begin to broaden the scope of those prayer lives? To consider the power of corporate prayer – when more than one are gathered in God’s name?”

Unanswered Prayers

We often concern ourselves with things we cannot control. A nervous passenger on an ocean liner asked the captain what would happen if the ship hit an iceberg.

“Nothing,” said the captain. “The iceberg would keep on floating as if nothing happened.”

That great theologian Garth Brooks understood this when he wrote the song, Thank God for Unanswered Prayers. I can identify with that.

I remember the girl I had a crush on in high school. I prayed that she would marry me some day. It didn’t work out, and I was devastated. Then, a few years later, I saw her at a psych hospital. (No, I wasn’t a patient.) I barely recognized her, as 50 percent of her wasn’t there when I had seen her last. I bowed and prayed, “Thank you, Jesus, for unanswered prayers!”

Life is like a parade. We see what is in front of us. But God sees the whole parade.

Even the best head football coach wears a headset. That is so the other coaches up high in the press box, with a much better view of the whole field, can tell him what is really happening on the field.

So thank God for one of his greatest gifts: unanswered prayers.

Praying Lions

The man was an experienced mountain climber, hiker, and outdoorsman. But this day would be unlike any other in his entire life. Lost, searching for a way down, he spotted a lion nearby. Worse yet, the lion spotted him. The lion started his approach. The man had no chance to escape. So he prayed.

He said, “God, you can see I’m in trouble here. I’m lost and I’m stuck. There is a lion coming, and he looks really hungry. If you get me out of this mess, I’ll do anything you want me to do. I’ll give to the poor, I’ll be a better husband, I’ll be a good father, and I’ll even go to church this Easter. Just get me out of this mess.”

When he finished his prayer, he looked up. It was a miracle! Just as he prayed, the lion stopped. The lion sat. And then the lion prayed.

“Wow! A praying lion!” the man thought to himself. “This lion must be a Christian!”

Then he heard the lion’s prayer. “Lord, thank you for this meal you have prepared for me.”

Don’t worry. No animals (or people) were hurt in the telling of this joke. But you can get hurt, really badly. How? By waiting until you are in trouble before you pray.

Too Much Caffeine

If you get a tax refund of $2,000, you can do one of two things with that money. First, you can use it to make a good down payment on a new car. Or you can do what millions do every day, and buy one cup of coffee at Starbucks.

If you have $10,000, you can get five cups. But take it easy on the caffeine. I’m not a coffee drinker but I can recognize one anywhere. They are the ones bouncing off the walls. The other day, I saw a man who was so high on caffeine that he was duck hunting with a rake. Too much caffeine.

You know you’ve had too much coffee when you find yourself answering the door before the doorbell rings or you have converted your car’s radiator to brew a pot on the way to work.

You’ve had too much coffee if Juan Valdez names his donkey after you, or you can play ping-pong without a partner. Your coffee filters are monogrammed. You chew on other people’s fingernails. Your eyes stay open when you sneeze.

And you know you’ve had too much coffee when you can jump start your car without cables or you can photograph yourself ten feet away without a timer. Or maybe you ski uphill.

Perhaps it’s time to lay off the coffee and just start your day the way Jesus did.

“While it was early in the morning, Jesus went into a mountain by himself, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

The Rushmore Report: Look Who’s Praying for Colin Kaepernick

As all 32 NFL teams prepare for the upcoming season, the average team is carrying five quarterbacks on its training camp roster. That is 160 NFL quarterbacks. Not on that list is a former All-Pro, Super Bowl quarterback in the prime of his career. Colin Kaepernick, the man who refused to stand for the national anthem in last year’s games, is that player. Guess which all-time great is praying for Kaepernick every day?

Ray Lewis.

The 42-year-old former linebacker who played 17 years for the Baltimore Ravens, revealed his prayers for Kaepernick, whose season-long protest last year was in response to his perceived brutality of police officers against black Americans.

Lewis stated on Twitter, “While a bunch of people are talking about this man, Kaep let me tell you something, brother. I pray for you more than you can imagine. Your name is in my Bible. I pray that God gives you the vision . . . I applaud you for the things that you stood up for.”

On a local Fox sports show, Lewis said that he disagreed with the way Kaepernick decided to kneel instead of stand during the national anthem. But more important, Lewis contended, is whether or not the QB could help his team win games. Lewis seems to think the Ravens should consider signing Kaepernick.

“What I’m asking us to do as an organization is let’s make a real decision,” he said. “If we’re going to do it, do it. But if we’re going to do it make sure we know why we’re doing it, and hopefully it’s to win.”

Lewis received a lot of criticism on social media for his comments, and he admitted that people were contacting him to voice their disapproval. None of this has deterred Lewis, who is an outspoken Christian.

Encouraging the former 49ers star to continue his pursuit to play in the NFL, Lewis tweeted, “I wish you the best in life. I hope you chase whatever God got for you to chase. And once again, I applaud what you stood up for because I’m in the streets every day.” Lewis concluded, “If people really want to help you they’ll pray for you, brother.”

While it’s not clear what the future holds for Colin Kaepernick, he clearly has one future Hall-of-Famer in his corner. More importantly, he has God in his corner. While I disagreed with his sitting out the national anthem, and would have a hard time getting beyond that to cheer for his team, I support his right to protest and express himself.

Last season, for 16 Sundays, while everyone else was standing for the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick knelt on one knee. I join Ray Lewis in praying for him. But I’ll take it a bit further. My prayer is that a Sunday football game isn’t the only place where Kaepernick takes a knee.

The Rushmore Report: ‘A Friend Among Friends’: Evangelicals Pray Over Trump – Again

A group of evangelical leaders prayed over President Trump in the Oval Office, with Vice President Mike Pence in attendance as well. Following a meeting hosted by the Office of Public Liaison last week, the evangelical leaders met with Trump and other Administration leaders. Johnnie Moore, president of the KAIROS Company, snapped a photo of the men laying their hands on Trump in prayer.

In a statement emailed to The Christian Post, Moore described the event as “a very special moment, but it was also not an unusual one.”

Moore continued, “Various ones of us have prayed with him many times and have been praying for him a long time. We believe we are a praying nation, and we begin by praying for our leaders. As you know, most evangelicals believe it’s a sacred responsibility to pray for the president, and this is very much in our tradition as Americans who once took – and sometimes still do take – this responsibility seriously.”

Moore also noted that while he and other evangelical leaders had prayed for former President Barack Obama, “it’s different with President Trump.” He says, “When we are praying for President Trump we are praying within the context of a real relationship, of true friendship.” Moore called it “a visit among friends.”

When he first declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, Trump’s relationship with evangelicals was a tenuous one. Many prominent evangelical leaders endorsed other Republican candidates, especially U.S. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.

However, after securing the Republican nomination and since taking office, Trump’s support among evangelicals has grown and remains steady despite his controversies.

Moore is not the only evangelical leader to see the Trump Administration as offering unprecedented welcome for evangelicals.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said there has “been no American president in history who has reached out to evangelicals to the extent that Trump has.”

About the Author

Michael Gryboski is a writer for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report: How Many People Pray Before Meals?

How many people pray before their meals? Is this old-fashioned practice still done anymore? Outside of the Bible belt and the most devout among us, does anyone really take time to pray before they eat? The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation came together to conduct a national poll. They surveyed rural and urban Americans, Northerners and Southerners, Democrats and Republicans, and Catholics and Protestants.

The poll showed that people from all those groups prayed before meals to at least some degree. Even some Americans who do not believe in organized religion still say grace, the study found.

According to the poll, 48 percent of all Americans say a prayer before meals at least a few times each week. In rural and urban America, 51 percent pray before meals. In the suburbs, 45 percent pray before meals regularly.

Among Republicans, 62 percent pray at least a few times a week, while 43 percent of Democrats say grace a few times a week. Among Independents, the number is 41 percent.

About 60 percent of Protestants pray before meals a few times a week, while 52 percent of Catholics do, according to the poll.

“It’s a powerful way of reminding yourself that you are not self-sufficient, that you are living by somebody’s grace, that plenty of other people who work just as hard as you don’t have anything to eat,” said Tim Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

About the Author

Amanda Casanova writes for Religion Today.