There are certain factions in our culture today who ridicule those who offer thoughts & prayers to victims’ families when deceased loved ones are violently and senselessly murdered. Those sentiments, no matter how genuine, can seem trite and rather shallow. But no one should doubt the sincerity when those who have compassion toward grieving and confused people, who are often angry, distraught, or all of the above and more. In most instances of violent mass shootings, for example, none of us want to imagine the pain and the horror of losing a loved one in such a circumstance. Thoughts and prayers are a way of saying, “We’re so sorry and would never wish this on our worst enemies.” And many, if not all, who offer thoughts and prayers really do believe in a merciful God in whom they ask that God’s peace and love will engulf those who mourn. And every thought of how much they are suffering emotionally at this awful loss will bring them back to prayer.
Maybe we don’t know what to pray for. So maybe we pray for justice, that the person who could commit such heinous acts should face justice, Divine certainly, but also earthly justice through the laws of the land. And we may also pray for God to help us make sense of how such terrible things are allowed to happen. Asking God “why” when things go horribly wrong is a valid question and one we should not shy away from.
Answers? You won’t always get answers.
Don’t let that stop you from asking questions. You can be angry with God, you can doubt His mercy and His love. But you can ask for that peace that only Jesus can give – that peace that passes all understanding. For the victims’ families certainly, but also for yourself.
And then you must remember this world is not our Home, that too many people have no hope because they have no idea that they never walk alone, that God is always with them and that He loves them every second of every moment of their existence. That knowledge can change lives. Would have changed their lives. That leads us to the rather uncomfortable reminder that those of us who are Christ followers have been commissioned by our Divine Leader to tell the world that they are loved and that God has forgiven them, if they just repent and follow Him.
That’s up to us. We can be messengers of the hope that is Jesus, that is eternity with our Triune God. Nothing better than that. And, when every tear is wiped away, and all mercy and love is all we exist in, the thoughts and the prayers will no longer be necessary.
One other thing that is crucial to pray for is conversion. We must pray for the conversion of souls, that they will turn from their sinful ways, ways that hurt other people and themselves, and turn toward God, the Light, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
Conversion prayers can and should include fasting. Prayers and fasting can drive out evil. I’ll turn to this spiritual practice in my next entry…