The internet is collectively outraged at those offering weak platitudes (“our thoughts and prayers”) in the aftermath of the latest school shooting. (I hate that there’s a “latest.” I hate that these are commonplace.)
And I get it. I write about prayer, and yet I’m right there with them.
The thing is, for a Christian who really lives what he or she believes, prayer absolutely must come first. It’s the immediate response to a situation in which we need help. Or clarity. Wisdom, discernment, direction. Or hope, to save us from completely crumbling into a pit of despair. It’s how we draw near to the God whose very presence brings us comfort. The One who can somehow lead us through these incomprehensible moments in which it seems the world is insane and hateful and depraved.
But here’s the thing: Prayer does not excuse us from taking action.
Prayer should come first, if we believe what we say. If we have come to believe that Jesus is our shelter and our strength. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But there is no excuse for stopping there. We still have to live in this world. We have to do what we can do to make it better. God hears us, He really does. But He uses His people to carry out many of His answers. He uses us to speak words of encouragement and hope to friends. He uses our arms to wrap around and hold close someone in the midst of tragedy and grief and suffering. He uses our minds to craft and implement solutions. He uses our passion to fuel us to make change, to find new and better ways to protect each other, sustain one another, connect with each other.
So, fine. Offer your thoughts and prayers. And I truly hope they are sincere. But know that that is not enough.
Ask for wisdom from the God who knows all, who feels our pain, who already knows ways we need to change. Ask for guidance in showing compassion and offering meaningful help. Ask for direction in channeling your anger and frustration and despair in productive ways that will keep this from happening every few days. (Every. Few. Days. This is outrageous.) Ask God to forgive us for letting things get to this point. Ask God to heal the minds and tortured souls who think shooting people is the answer to their pain. Ask God to show the gun lovers the distinction between guns for hunting and personal protection and guns that shatter the lives of countless innocent people, and to help our lawmakers find the right levels of compromise to protect those we love (those that God loves—every single one. There are no exceptions.).
Beg God to help us put a stop to this. To not let “another shooting” be so commonplace it doesn’t even slow us down as we scroll through our newsfeeds.
Lord, have mercy.