Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Prayer of Lament for Orlando

On Sunday, 50 people were shot and killed, and 53 more shot and wounded at a night club in Orlando. Once again, innocents have been slaughtered. The gunman appears to have killed out of a radical ideology of terroristic, fundamentalist Islam. Previous killings have been for similar reasons:
  • some by terroristic, fundamentalist Muslims (Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik)
  • some by terroristic, fundamentalist Christians (Timothy McVeigh)
  • some by people who seem to have had severe mental disorders (Adam Lanza).
Regardless of the cause, the result is the same: innocent lives have been ended, families destroyed, hatred and anger multiplied, fear increased, and many looking not only for a solution, but for someone to blame.

My response has thus far been one of sadness and longing for God's Kingdom, the kingdom in which we truly do love God and love one another. My response has also been one of anger, fear, and a desire to destroy those responsible. I'd like to be Captain America rushing in and stopping (killing) all the bad guys.

It works well in the movies, because afterwards, the credits roll. In real life, however, the credits don't roll...heads do. The result would be (has been) that those who love the bad guys would feel just as I do, and they'd all want to do exactly what I wanted to do. The violence and bloodshed would simply beget (have begotten) more violence and bloodshed.

Another response which has begotten more anger and vitriol has been to write or speak all of the anger inside of us. While we need a vent for our anger, shouting out or typing angry, fearful comments generally only further inflames the problems. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29, "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear."
We need to deal with our anger and violence in a way that Jesus taught, and what Jesus taught us to do was to "love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]." (Matthew 5:44) He didn't say exactly what those prayers should be, and I'd like to suggest that our prayers for our enemies should be as vast and complicated as our own feelings.

We should definitely pray for the welfare of our enemies and for their repentance. Praying for their peace helps bring about peace within us, within them, and within the world.

We also get to pray that God will utterly destroy our enemies. We get to pour all of our anger, our hatred, our fear, and our desires for vengeance into prayer. We may feel like we shouldn't pray for God to kill our enemies, but our prayers are exactly where we should say such things.

God can be trusted with our anger and fear.
People, often cannot.

Consider Psalm 137:8-9, "O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!" Not a part of the psalms we usually hear on a Sunday morning, and that is unfortunate. Lament is an important part of our prayer life.

We need to offer to God our whole selves, not just the parts we think may be acceptable. By offering such prayers of Lament, we are not commanding God, as though God would follow our commands. We are being honest with God and trusting him to do what is right with the hurt, pain, anger, and fear within us. When we deal with such things on our own, we usually end up hurting others. God can take it.

As Paul also writes in Philippians 4:6, "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  

As we respond to tragedy and killing, offer prayers to God. Pray for your enemies. Pray for their repentance and well-being, pray for reconciliation, and pray also the prayer of lament. Perhaps such prayers will help to bring about the peace in our world which all of our angry and violent words and actions have yet to accomplish. May we all become weak, trusting in God's strength, for his power is made perfect in our weakness.

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