I was going through my local news feeds when I came across a headline that read, “We don’t need your thoughts and prayers.” This was a quote from a grieving man in New Zealand who was reacting to what appears to be a white supremacist attack against a mosque. The racist killed 50 worshipers and injured another 40.

I certainly get the sentiment from the quoted man. Everyone offers their thoughts and prayers which seemingly do nothing tangible to stop these mass shootings. However, as a man of God I have to disagree with him. Thoughts and prayers are exactly what is needed before and after such tragic events.

One of my favorite scenes in the Bible is from Revelation 8:3-4:

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.

I love the imagery of all our prayers going up before God in fragrant incense as He breathes them in, knowing everything we need and ask for in our lives. Yes, God hears every single prayer we offer and He answers every single prayer as well! Here are Jesus’ words in Mark 11:24 – “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (One caveat here – what you ask for must be in the Father’s will and will be done in the Father’s way not necessarily the way you ask!)

As for thoughts, scripture addresses that as well. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” You see, God knows every need we have even before we ask (Matthew 6:8) and delves deep into our thoughts understanding our emotions and motives.

So, what good are thoughts and prayers? Well, just look to scripture to see. How many times does God intervene in the lives of men because someone prayed and asked for His help? Jesus repeatedly knew the thoughts of men and intervened appropriately with compassion or correction depending on the person. All our major Bible heroes have a running dialogue with God to supply all their needs physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

The fact is thoughts and prayers really are the only thing that is important for two reasons. First, we know that our battle is not against flesh and blood but a spiritual battle of good versus evil (Ephesians 6:12) thus we need God on our side and the way you get God on your side is to talk with Him!! Second, thoughts and prayers are vital because God is sovereign and is the only One who can bring peace, comfort, and true justice to this world.

That said, I’ll be honest and tell you that I wish God would take away our free will! People, including me, are so stupid. We rebel against God – even those of us who have no desire to do so at all! But, for some reason God allows us to choose to do evil. Really, it sucks. But I kind of get it.

You see, God uses all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means that no matter what happens in this world, God is in charge and will use it to further His kingdom. There is nothing we can do to mess up His plan. Like many, I pray that people won’t do evil – people won’t kill others – yet, for some reason God allows evil to exist and the answer to my prayer is what Jesus told us in Matthew 24:6. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically Jesus said that we’re going to see terrible stuff but not to be alarmed because these things must happen before the end comes.

And what happens in the end? Justice! God’s justice. Everyone is going to get exactly what they earned. Everyone is going to reap what they sowed! God’s justice is so perfect that there is nothing I could come up with that would be better. And honestly, that gives me a lot of comfort.

This is important to understand: nobody gets away with anything.

If you are an unbeliever, God will judge you based on your own righteousness. Dang, could you image how badly that’s going to go? Hell is your eternal destination – period.

If you are a Christian, you will be judged on Jesus’ righteousness. Your eternal destination is Heaven. But wait! Not so fast! There is more. You, too, are going to be judged. Not on your sins for punishment, but on your works for rewards. And guess what, your rebellious acts lose you rewards in heaven. It’s like God has 100 gifts for you but by the time you live your life and make all the mistakes you make, you only get 10! Confused? Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Your works are going to be put to the test!

“10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

You see, God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). You don’t simply get to become a Christian and no longer be accountable for your actions. Certainly, you are saved, forgiven and your sins covered by the blood of Jesus, but you are still accountable. You will suffer the consequences of your actions on earth while you are here and you will lose rewards in heaven as your “wood, hay and straw” burn up.

So, yes, I am praying for the people in New Zealand. I’m praying God’s comfort to those who lost loved ones. I’m praying for recovery for those who were injured. But most of all I am praying that this tragedy points people to Jesus because we all know that it is in times of deep pain that Jesus can be most evident.