“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matt. 2:18
Like you, I was shocked and saddened by the news of yet another school shooting last Friday. This time the horror was magnified by the fact that the victims were little children and their devoted teachers trying to protect them. Of course, this was not the first time a crazed killer has set his sights on God’s little ones. Last weekend our fellowship studied the massacre of Bethlehem’s babies in Herod’s attempt to destroy Jesus the newborn King of the Jews. Both incidents have made me ask myself: How do I pray in the face of tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Here are four ways I am learning to pray:
1. Pray for the world. Most of us begin our prayers with requests for our own needs or those of our loved ones. While there is nothing wrong with that, our Master taught a different approach. When asked by His disciples to teach them to pray, Jesus told them to pray like this: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9-10) In other words, we begin by praying for this world to become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. For it is only when the Kingdom of God is established in each heart that there will be peace on earth and goodwill to man.
2. Pray for the troubled. The Bible warns that our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” and commands us to resist him firm in the faith. (1 Pet. 5:8-9) But in the case of school shootings, his targets are often those with weakened minds who are unequipped to resist him on their own and then used by him to “steal, to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10) I believe this underscores the necessity of reopening the discussion of how we care for the mentally ill in our society. Certainly, one place for believers to begin is by praying for God’s protection over the minds of troubled souls around us, of which there are more than most of us imagine.
3. Pray for the grieving. Christians are a prophetic people entrusted with God’s Word and empowered by His Spirit to declare His will to a broken world. But it is imperative that in speaking the truth, we do it in love remembering that our goal is to leave others feeling like they have been helped. Sometimes that means correcting those who are straying. But in times of loss, it means speaking words of comfort and hope. Job called his friends “miserable comforters,” for instead of easing his sorrow, they exacerbated it by bombarding him with pious clichés that did him no good. Let us join together in praying for the healing salve of God’s Word spoken by God’s people to draw the grieving to the Only One who is able to bind up the brokenhearted and comfort those who mourn. (Isa. 61:1-2)
Click here for Rick Warren’s sermon “Recovering from Disasters”
4. Pray for ourselves. When asked about Pilate’s slaughter of several Galileans in the Temple, Jesus warned his listeners to repent lest they likewise perish. For sin has made this world a dangerous place in which to live. (Luke 13:1-5) For that reason the only wise course is to take shelter under God’s care while remaining alert to the danger around us. James advised: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near you.” But he also warned us against taking the problem of evil lightly. “Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10) A wise and humble person recognizes the evil in this world and prays without ceasing for God’s protection against it.
Our Father in Heaven, please comfort the hearts of those who are grieving in Connecticut, and may You by Your Holy Spirit and holy angels protect the minds of the troubled souls among thereby safeguarding us from the evil our enemy would do to us. Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, that Your name may be gloried. For Jesus’ sake, I pray. Amen.