Why pray for the media? The answer is simple. Because God answers prayers offered up for the media.
Consider that in 2018 two of the heralded heroes of Sports Illustrated, Time, ESPN and other major media outlets were Rachael Denhollander and Tyler Trent. Both are Christians who have suffered immensely, and have persevered and/or continue to persevere. In various ways, they were heard in 2018 and still are being heard because of their faith.
Denhollander led a host of sexual abuse victims in testifying boldly against Dr. Larry Nassar. Her gospel-infused courtroom speech proclaimed Christ. She punctuated a series of speeches from survivors with her own. She highlighted the justice and mercy of God through a mega-phone of major news outlets that no one can order as she said to Larry Nassar’s face:
The Bible [of which] you speak carries a final judgment where all of God's wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me -- though I extend that to you as well.
Tyler Trent courageously fought cancer as a Purdue University student and inspired millions. He graciously sought to glorify God in his cancer-filled body in countless interviews. He wrote in the Indianapolis Star about the work of God in the darkest parts of life as he grew in Jesus Christ:
Why would a good, gracious and holy God want to take away our dreams? These are not typically sinful things….It is because God wants us dreaming about him. All that time you have spent thinking and dreaming about the perfect summer vacation or perfect spouse? Yeah, God wants you to spend that time thinking about Him and digging into his word. Now, I am most certainly not saying that God is going to punish you for your wonderful dreams. But let's not fleece ourselves; as with technology, how much time are we spending away from the one who provides us with every breath?
Both of these figures, on public platforms, testified clearly and boldly to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. The media honored them greatly. Denhollander and Trent spoke the good news of the gospel to huge numbers of people. Christians too often bemoan that they are shouted out of the public square, but that has certainly not been true in these cases.
Stop. Think about what God did. Two people who were not seeking the limelight spoke an oft-derided message through the media to the applause of almost everyone. You can't scheme these things. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He did not have to be so gracious to our land. But he has been. Who knows what work he is doing in the hearts and lives of those who have heard these suffering saints speak words of truth, justice, grace, and hope? So, we must stop and praise God for this answer to prayer.
But who was praying for the media? How do we know that these stories are answered prayers for the media and not fortuitous accidents?
Today at noon, I attended the 15th Annual Indiana Statehouse Prayer Service, a tradition on the opening day of the legislative session. As I’ve written before, Matt Barnes, of Public Servants’ Prayer, always does a great job of organizing and leading the event. For 45 minutes, various public officials and other community heads lead us in prayer for the branches of government, churches, and families. Over 800 people attended this year, and it is a fitting prelude to the opening session of the legislature, which begins only minutes after the conclusion of the prayer service. It is a wonderful season of prayer, and over the years it has changed the climate of statehouse dialogue.
Each year, one person prays for the media in the state of Indiana. It's amazing how easy it is to overlook praying for people in these "high positions" that we are called to pray for in 1 Timothy 2:2. But we don't forget them at the Statehouse Prayer Service. How has the Lord answered those prayers and prayers offered by many others for our media?
In 2016, the Lord used investigative reporters at the Indianapolis Star to give Rachael Denhollander confidence to stand up as the first public accuser of Larry Nassar. Without those reporters, the story would not be where it is today.
In 2018, Indianapolis Star sports journalist Gregg Doyel poignantly told Tyler Trent’s story, at least as early as March. God used Doyel’s story-telling ability and commitment to this young man to give Trent a voice that reached a national platform at the time of Purdue’s poetic football win over Ohio State on a beautiful October night. Doyel kept telling the story through Trent’s death, quoting Psalm 103 at length in his first column after Trent passed into glory.
We don’t know exactly how God uses prayer in his plan. We just know that he does. We know that Hoosiers pray for their media, at least one day a year publicly. Through the annual prayer service, Matt Barnes has taught people how to pray for the media a lot more often than that privately. We know God answered those prayers in specific ways this year that we didn’t even pray for exactly. No doubt, there are countless other ways God has answered these prayers for the press that I am overlooking or simply do not know. But these are two examples that should encourage everyone to pray. Through faithful reporting and good story-telling on the part of our media, the Holy Spirit was pleased to glorify Jesus Christ in 2018.
Let’s keep praying for the media.