2 Chronicles 7:14/ “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
America has entered a historical period wherein whispering a prayer to God on behalf of the victims of domestic terrorism, mass shootings and ‘daily gun violence’ is not enough. We have all grieved the senseless deaths of thousands killed on American soil of all ages, hues, economic classes and geographical backgrounds, since the Oklahoma City Bombing—just to ground the uptick of our national crisis in a specific event—nearly twenty-five years ago (April 19, 1995, at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building).
Something about the massacres in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH, on August 3, 2019, both of which were motivated by racial hatred, the first against people of color living peacefully on the Mexican Border, and the other predominantly targeting African Americans, signify that America has officially become a perilous nation barreling full-speed ahead towards its own destruction, without credible leadership in the driver’s seat to apply the emergency breaks. A Twitter storm erupted following those massacres excoriating a leader of the United States Senate, in response to his Tweet stating, “my prayers go out to the victims of this terrible violence, their families and friends, and the brave first responders…” Twitter users noted that the Senator said virtually the same words in the aftermath of multiple mass shootings in recent years. Americans are angry that this governmental official who has the power to lead change has done nothing in response to senseless violence, except to offer prayers on Twitter. One respondent wrote, “When you have the power to act and intentionally don’t you can’t turn around and say you’re horrified. Stop and do something about it.”
The growing sentiment in response to “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of fast-spreading violence is, “nobody wants your prayers any longer.” I understand this sentiment. It results from repeated callous references to prayer that do not entail any corrective actions. High-sounding pledges of prayer that are not accompanied by acts of justice and policy changes to stem the tide of violence amount to cheap grace. Faith without works is dead. Why would anybody in a position of national leadership go to all the trouble of publicly offering to pray for the victims of violence, and then refuse to use their influence to take concrete actions that would reduce the violence?
In my next blog, I want to enumerate some of the “works” uttered by the Divine Voice after King Solomon petitioned God to intervene in his nation in a time of crisis. We will compare and contrast the generic prayer formula that is widely used today, “sending thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families” with the more exacting petitions offered by the ancient King, and the response from the Divine Voice which set forth pre-conditions that should be met to validate the integrity of those prayers.