How to pray and give thanks to God for earthquakes and war

In light of current global events, where humans are suffering and dying in various cataclysmic events, the Apostle Paul would tell us to do three things: to be joyful, to pray and to give thanks, just as he told the suffering church in Thessalonica:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What is there to be joyful about? How can we pray? And what can we give thanks for?  In this post I’ll give a brief, biblical answer to each question.

First, what is there to be joyful about? To be joyful in all circumstances we must know that Christian joy is not circumstantial. There are many painful events in life which lead to grief, yet there is always a joy to be had and this lies beyond our circumstances, as Paul reminds the suffering Thessalonians:

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6

The message that the Thessalonians received with joy was the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead– Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Earthquakes are a sign of the wrath of God to come and the knowledge that God’s wrath has been turned away by the loving and sacrificial death of Christ for us brings great joy to believers, in all circumstances.

Next, how can we pray? We must pray for the people of Japan, Libya, New Zealand and other places where there is suffering and pain, to ask God for mercy and comfort.

Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Daniel 9:18

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,  to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve Isaiah 61:1-3

Last, what can we give thanks for? We cannot and should not give thanks for the loss of life, suffering, pain, destruction and misery as, like a father chastising his child, God himself takes no pleasure in what has happened.

I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! Ezekiel 18:32

We can give God thanks for earthquakes and war, as God has authority and control over all things and so God is the primary cause.

They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the LORD and the splendour of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth. Isaiah 2:21

And so we can thank God for the unfathomable good which will result from recent global events. For the thousands or millions of hearts which will turn to seek God with the result that many will fear God, not in fear for their life but in fear of God himself. Those who turn to God do so with a humble, reverent fear as they come to see Christ for who he is and what he’s done in his death for sin.  We must give thanks to God and pray that national governments will acknowledge how small and pathetic we are as human beings, created by God, and to realise just how little national governments can do in light of the awesome power, glory, majesty and sovereignty of God.

They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the LORD and the splendour of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth. Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he? Isaiah 2:21-22

The state is not our saviour and never can be.  God in Christ is our Saviour and always should be.


Lord Jesus keep me close to you, my shield and my salvation,  give me joy in you, and in you alone, for your love, grace and mercy revealed on the day you died for my sin and turned away the wrath of God to come.  Please have mercy on all those who suffer today.  Bring them comfort in their troubles and relief from their distress and the joy of your salvation.  And thank you Lord for the earthquakes and war.  We can’t thank you for the suffering and pain but for the good, both eternal and temporal, which will result from your sovereign acts in your world.  My your name be praised, now and forever more.  Amen.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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