This post is a prayer, most of which I wrote several years ago after another mass shooting. The events that unfolded today hit a bit closer to home for me, mere miles from where my family lives. There are some that say they don’t want to hear about our prayers anymore. That’s understandable, but make no mistake, prayer is vitally important at times like this. They just can’t be the pointless, self-absolving kind that the church is used to praying. And they must be followed with action.
I am tempted to feel apathetic, Lord, and that frightens me. These horrific and senseless acts of violence have escalated, and become so frequent that they are commonplace. We remember Columbine. We remember Virginia Tech. We remember Sandy Hook. Another school, a college, a movie theater, a restaurant, a house of worship. After a while, they begin to run together, and that is a terrible thing. May we not be desensitized, but may our hearts break at the pain and destruction.
God of comfort, be with those who mourn. They have woken up and found themselves in their worst nightmare. Give them strength. Give them peace. Let them know that you weep with them. Be with those who are injured. May there be healing and wholeness.
Help us to see ourselves and our loved ones in them, knowing that it could have been any of us on the receiving end of those violent acts.
And, dare we ask, may we see a bit of ourselves when we look at the perpetrator. We are all complicit in our own way. We cry tears for murdered children, then give video games to our own children in which they gleefully draw beads on human figures and blast away. We send our condolences to the wrecked families, then morbidly embrace the media sensationalism that follows. We cry out to you, saying “How long, O Lord,” but brusquely recoil at the suggestion that lethal weapons be restricted in any way. We think, “My God, what a tragedy,” yet continue to live indifferently.
Forgive us, Lord. We live in a world that is thoroughly connected by technology, yet we have forgotten how to connect in meaningful relationships with others. So, we pray for those who are lonely, hurting, depressed, anxious, traumatized. We pray for the battered and abused. We pray that we would be quick to help those with mental illness. We pray that we would be about the work of restoration, healing, and mercy.
Let us finally see the irony of the land we live in. We claim to hate violence, but in fact, our history proves otherwise. We live and die by the sword abroad, yet we are aghast when our citizens do the same among themselves. We rightfully mourn over innocent victims of mass shootings here, but we write off the lives taken elsewhere as merely collateral damage. Just as the Santa Fe High School victims are mourned by parents, sisters, and brothers, so are those who continue to die in distant lands because of American actions. Help us remember our enemies by yet another name: image-bearers of the great Creator.
The truth is, we have believed that the labels Christian and American carry a certain amount of synonymity. It is not so, and not because we can’t pray aloud at high school football games anymore, or because our nativity scene isn’t welcome in front of the courthouse, but because your kingdom is antithetical to those of this world. Our Savior, himself an innocent victim of violence, has taught us the way, and that way is mercy, love, grace, and peace. Therefore, we confess that both our outright support of violence, as well as our hesitance to do anything about it signifies unbelief.Lord, we say we believe. Help our unbelief.
May we your church worship as if there’s something serious at stake. Far too often we don’t. We preach silly sermon series, pray inspecific prayers, sing sentimental songs, and go about our merry way, oblivious to the ugliness and horror going on around us, except for an obligatory “thoughts and prayers.” May the things we pray make us into your prayer for the world. Strengthen us through Word and Sacrament. After bread is broken and wine is poured, pour us out into a dry, thirsty creation, until that glorious day when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and violence will finally be a thing of the past. Until then, help us to do justice, to love mercy, and walk humbly by your side, as children worthy to bear the name of the Prince of Peace.
This we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ, the Light of the world, in whom there is no darkness at all, who taught his disciples to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
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