A few days ago I posted a challenge to Christians to pray against the violence in our country by praying for other people. Prayer as a response to violence is not a popular idea, I know. Many people, even Christians, seem to think that prayer is ineffective against the evils of our world.
Obviously, I disagree. I propose prayer as an active means of overcoming violence. It has a better chance of succeeding than more gun control (which may never happen), better mental health care (which may never happen), or the banning of violent video games which has also been proposed (which may never happen). I don't consider placing armed teachers or policemen in schools as even worthy of consideration.
A friend I ran into the other day asked about how we should pray, and how could we remember to pray. What I have done is set the alarm on my cell phone for 9:30 on Friday mornings. I'm using that time to pray for a young man I know. Here is the prayer I've written.
(Best if prayed aloud, I think.)
I pray for _______. _________, Jesus says to you “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in me” (John 14:1). “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27, Luke 24:36).
I give thanks for you. You are precious to God. I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which you have been called and that you may know the riches of his glorious inheritance for you and his incomparably great power on your behalf, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:16-20).
________, God sets before you today life and prosperity, or death and destruction. Choose life and prosperity, so that you may live and love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.
For He is your life. I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you (Dt 30:19-20). I pray that you have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).
_______, know that the eternal God is your refuge. You are underneath his everlasting arms (Dt 33:27). The Lord is a refuge when you are in distress and feel oppressed. He is your stronghold in times of trouble (Ps 9:9). The Lord is your rock, your fortress and your deliverer. He is your shield, your salvation and your stronghold. Take refuge in him (Ps 18:2), in the shadow of his wings (Ps 36:7). He is your ever-present help when you are in trouble (Ps 46:1). Place your trust in him (Ps 91:2). You are blessed when you take refuge in him (Ps 2:12).
________, increase in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Imitate God and you will live a life of love, just as Christ loved you and gave himself up for you (Eph 5:1-2).
______, I pray that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ’s return. (Phil 1:9-10).
_______, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. May you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13). And be healed and made whole in body, mind and spirit.
A week ago we in the U.S. experienced another shooting in a school. Unfortunately it was not the first, and may not be the last. Many people are again raising the issue of gun control as a way of
decreasing or eliminating these random acts of violence.
I am not against gun control, but I don’t see it as the sole answer, or even the primary answer, to the problem that has been manifested. It could reasonably be argued that if people did not have access to guns they would still find a way to act out their aggression. There are other ways to kill people, individually or in groups. We cannot control all the means available.
The people responsible for killings of this type have been disturbed individuals, obviously. Some were known to the local mental health professionals; others were not receiving any kind of treatment. I applaud the mental health practitioners and the parents and other loved ones who made every attempt to help these disturbed individuals. I’m sure they are heartbroken about the death and destruction of lives. But people who need help can’t be watched 24 hours a day or locked away on the possibility that they might commit a crime. There is no known cure for many mental illnesses, depression, anger or other factors that lead people to commit such atrocities. So, unfortunately, better mental health care is not the answer either.
Since gun control and better mental health care are not the answer, what is? I would like to challenge Christians to unite against violence. How? Through prayer. Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” Why don’t we take him at his word? I propose that we each choose one person to pray for daily who might be at risk for violence. But we must do so out of love, without passing judgment on them. If you don’t know of anyone personally, ask a teacher which one of their students they would most like prayer for – perhaps a bully or the victim of a bully, a child with a learning disability, or an unstable home life. Are all of these people prone to violence later in life?
Of course not. But we can still do incalculable good to those for whom we pray (Eph 3:20).
How ought we to pray for these people we have chosen? Pray blessings on them (Rom 15:13, Eph 1:16-20, Eph 5:1-2, Philippians 1:9-11). Pray that they choose life ( Dt 30: 15-16, 19-20); pray that they have life to the full (John 10:10), pray that they know God as their refuge and help in times of trouble (Dt 33:27, Ps 2:12, Ps 9:9, Ps 18:2, Ps 36:7, Ps 46:1, Ps 91:2). Pray for an increase of the fruit of the Spirit in their life (Gal 5:22-26). Pray for peace in their life (John 14:27, Luke 24:36). And pray above all that they be healed in body, mind and spirit. For after all, we are one body in Christ. What we pray for them, we also pray for ourselves.
There is a way to overcome violence because with God all things are possible. Let us unite in prayer.
A number of people, adults and children, were killed this morning at a school in Connecticut. I'm sure the media will dissect what happened for days to come - you can already watch video of the scene.
I guess I'm strange because I find myself praying more for the gunman than for those who were killed by him. I'm sorry for whatever circumstances led him to believe that killing was the solution to his problems. I pray that he now has peace and knows God's presence. (And I pray this for all who were killed today.)
After 9/11 I found myself praying for Osama bin Laden. Yes, for him, not against him. I prayed for him to come to know Jesus. When I asked other people if they were praying for him, I got startled looks. Many told me I was wasting my time. But Jesus said: pray for your enemies; do good to those who persecute you. So I try to do that.
If Christians don't pray for these people, who will?
What do you think? I welcome you comments on this post or any of the others.
Clematis vines have tendrils which cause them to cling to the fence or wall on which they grow. I don't know what they are called, but they are extremely hard to disentangle from the fence when you want to move the vine or trim it. In fact, when I first tried to disentangle a clematis that was growing over adjacent plants, rather than growing up the fence where I wanted it to be, the plant nearly died. It seemed that every part of the vine I touched turned brown. I pried those tendrils loose ever-so-gently, but still they died.
Recently I've had it in mind that we need those same types of tendrils to cling to Jesus. We need to be hard to separate from him. I realize that in this image Jesus is the fence and we are the vine - not quite what Jesus said about him being the vine and us being the branches. But I think the image of the clinging vine has some merit.
Anyway, the message is cling to Jesus, be hard to separate from him, and, as always, keep close to him in prayer. (And I hope you enjoy the photo of the clematis vine from my backyard.)
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.