My piano teacher slid onto the piano bench beside me, but neither of us touched the keys. The studio was unnaturally quiet. My weekly lessons were usually filled with simple sonatas and easy etudes as Hallee encouraged me, an adult beginner, to relax my hands and lean into the music. But that fall afternoon in 2015, we sat side by side on the piano bench and consoled each other in hushed voices. We drew strength from each other and from our shared faith. In that moment Hallee and I were no longer teacher and student, but two mothers grieving the news of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. We didn’t know anyone in Roseburg—much less the victims—but we grieved anyway. Oregon was only one state away. Our backyard. The violence was too close to home.
As mothers, we knew what it was like to linger at morning drop offs, pulling our children in close for an extra hug before releasing them to a day of learning. We hope for their bright futures while knowing today may be all we have.
As news of school shootings and other acts of violence hit our headlines with brutal frequency, quiet moments like these are happening all over our country: people taking time to mourn the deaths of victims they’ve never met. We grieve because we recognize these violent acts are not isolated events, but an attack upon our nation. We understand that when one of our citizens is gunned down, it creates a wound in the fabric of our society.
What can be done to end the gun violence in our nation?
Some advocate for changes in gun laws and legislation; others see any new regulations as a systematic dismantling of rights. Some wish to arm every law-abiding member of society; others want only the police and military to have access. Many citizens plead for better mental-health centers and resources. Still others desire a combination of these ideas.
Despite the deep divides in our political landscape, I believe most law-abiding Americans want the same thing: We want the shootings to stop. We want to send our children to school each morning knowing we will see them again that afternoon. We want to move about our lives without fearing we could be gunned down in our church, in our schools, or in our own homes.
It’s easy to fall prey to fear and hopelessness. I often ask myself what can I, as an individual, do to bring healing to our nation? How can we, as a community, stand up to this kind of evil?
The Bible tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). We must remember that behind each violent perpetrator is a demonic presence bent on destruction.
I’m convinced that prayer is the first step in taking back our country, even as we look for actionable steps forward. Scripture calls us to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). It’s something each of us can do. It’s powerful and it’s empowering. It takes us from a place of defense to a place of offense.
When the Israelites journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promise Land, God led them with a flame of fire and hemmed them in behind with a holy cloud. When they built the tabernacle, the cloud of His presence inhabited the Tent of Meeting. This cloud was a sign of God’s Protective Presence among His people.
What would happen if we asked God, each and every day, to cover this great nation of ours with His Protective Presence just as He did for the Israelites in the time of Moses?
Each morning, as the sun’s rays hit the eastern edge of Maine and move steadily westward, perhaps we, too, could light up our entire country, region by region, with our prayers.
Imagine it with me: A supernatural cloud of protection blankets the entire East Coast, then wraps itself around our southern beauties, moves steadily northward to our industrious mid-West, unfurls over the plains of the interior, bumps up against the Rocky Mountains, and spills over onto the West Coast. It blows westward across the Pacific Ocean until it covers the islands of Hawaii and envelops the western-most tip of Alaska.
What would it be like to have our entire nation covered with the Almighty’s Presence?
Matthew 18:20 assures us that “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Could we not expect, then, that God would dwell among a nation bound together in prayer? What would happen if more of us got down on our knees each morning and petitioned the Lord for a day free from violence?
I invite you to join me in daily prayer for the protection of our nation. Our daily litany of hope could sound something like this:
“Dear Sovereign Lord, please bless our nation with a day be free from violence.
“We pray that you, Oh Lord, would post your mighty angels around every place where people gather. May your angels shield us from all evil.
“We pray for our fellow Americans who own guns, that they would use their firearms judiciously, with skill and with care, never forgetting the power they wield.
“May we never turn our firearms upon ourselves or others in our moments of deepest despair.
“Help us to see those who are hurting, lonely, and in need of friendship and motivate us to reach out and love them.
“We pray for our policymakers in Washington DC and in every state legislature. May they be unified in a selfless desire for the betterment of our nation. Grant them discretion and wisdom to make sound laws that would guarantee our freedoms while protecting our communities. Infuse them with creativity to find new solutions to persistent problems.
“Protect us, Oh Lord. Be our Great Defender. Have mercy on us this day. Amen”
For me, going before God’s throne with this petition each morning gives me courage to move confidently into each day, trusting that God is at work on our behalf.
And that frees me from fear and allows me to enjoy the music of living.