*Before I even start this post I want to state as clearly as I can that I unequivocally condemn what was done at the Pules Nightclub. It was evil, it was wrong, and I absolutely hate that it was done. I hate all destruction of human life. I sit here and I grieve with the families and friends of everyone involved and stand with them against this type of violence.
I woke up yesterday morning to the horrific news of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I was in the kitchen, frying up some pancakes while my kids played Zelda and the coffee brewed. I thought I’d check Facebook while I waited to flip the current batch and there it was, like a punch in the stomach or a kick to the throat, innocent people dead. Again.
As dumbfounded as I was, I was also overwhelmed with grief. More lives lost. More homes changed forever. More pain. More violence. So I did what I always do when faced with the unthinkable, I prayed. I cooked breakfast for my family, and I prayed because I firmly believe that prayer changes things and that God is still King over all the Earth.
As the day wore on, I checked social media from time to time. Most people, thankfully, were sending messages of kindness and hope. But not everyone was reacting that way. There was also a lot of blaming, finger-pointing, and political shuffling. The anger and the fear emanating from people’s responses were palpable. But it wasn’t just focused on the assailant or politicians, I began to see anger directed towards people like me who were saying things like, “I’m praying for the victims and families of the Pulse shooting.”
And I get it. I know there are a lot of people out there who say they are praying who don’t mean it at all. It is a phrase that can become trite and overused and is, truthfully, meaningless coming from some people. But not all people.
The outcry about statements like that seems to generally be making the point that we need more action in our world; more answers and less babble. They think prayer is pointless, or worse, that it actually causes people to not act. I think the fear is that if we are praying then we are not doing.
But I don’t think that’s true. At least, it’s not true for me. So I thought, in light of that response, I would write out for myself why I say, “I”m praying,” in situations like these. I’m sure it’s not a complete list, but it’s a start. And I know people will still disagree, but that’s ok with me. We can disagree on the first course of action, we can disagree on many things, and still treat each other with respect.
So here it goes, here is my list of why I pray in times like these, and why I think we should be happy to see other people saying they are praying too…
1: First and foremost, I deeply believe that prayer changes things. I believe that in prayer we have direct communication with the creator God, the King over all creation. I believe prayer is powerful and that God hears the pleas of his children. I am entirely convinced that prayer is very, very important.
But you may not believe as I do, and that’s ok. Perhaps you’re not religious, perhaps you just don’t know what to believe. Even if you don’t believe, here are some other things to consider, some things I thought you should also know about why people praying is important…
2: True prayer is a humbling of oneself. At the heart of honest, Biblical prayer, is a deep sense of humility. It is a recognition that I cannot do what needs to be done on my own. It’s acknowledging that I am merely human and that God alone is God. I think that’s important because we need a little more humility in the world. We need more people to admit that they don’t know how to fix things and fewer people proclaiming that they have all the answers. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
3: True prayer is asking for help. This is similar to being humble but takes it a step forward. We humble ourselves by saying that we can’t fix things on our own, but then move forward to say that we think God can. That’s an important distinction because humility that doesn’t move towards God can slip into hopelessness and the world needs hope. I believe God can bring about that change but even if you don’t, we can still stand together in the hope that things can change. (1 John 5:14)
4: True prayer is preparation. Honest, Biblical prayer is preparation for change. Is says, here I am, Lord, send me! It changes our hearts so that we are equipped and ready to change the world around us. In other words, prayer is not just something we do before acting, it is part of the action. I think we can all agree that we need action! (Romans 12:2)
5: True prayer is a way of remembering the people who deserve to be remembered. If you ever read through the Psalms, and I highly recommend you do, you will see pretty early on that remembering is a big deal for God’s people and it is always presented as an active action. Remembering is not passive. It’s not something we hope will happen to us, it is something we actively set our minds to doing. The victims in the club need to be remembered, they deserve to be thought of more than the perpetrator. Our natural inclination when we hear about the acts of violence is to become so angry at the person who did it, at least that is my inclination. But that means I’m focusing on them, and not the innocent victims or their families and loved ones. Praying for them is a way for us to purposefully set our minds on those things that deserve our thoughts. As much as you might not understand, or even like the fact that someone is praying, I think we can all be thankful that they are at least thinking about the right people.
6: True prayer lets us connect with our emotions. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I’m not very good at the whole “emotions” thing. Years of keeping them reigned in have left me a little out of practice feeling the deepness of my feelings. I don’t like feeling controlled by something other than my brain and I hate, really hate feeling out of control. I’m working on that, really, I am, and I have found that prayer is one of the things that helps. Praying lets me tap into my sadness, my fear, my hope, my longing, and my anger in a way that is deep and meaningful. It brings about empathy in a new and profound way. I believe that praying together brings us together in a way that can only be described as supernatural and we need to be brought together. (Romans 12:15-16)
I know you may not agree with me on the power of prayer, but I hope that we can agree that it is a good thing. It will always be frustrating when politicians, who had made a career out of saying one thing and doing the other, claim to be praying. It will always sting when you know someone is just saying it to be politically correct. But for the rest of us, the people who really mean it, I hope this helps. I hope we can stand together in support for the victims, that we can move forward with honesty and hope, and enact change that will heal hearts. And I hope that when you see me say, “I’m praying for them,” you understand a little bit better what I really mean.