Prayer For Orlando
June 17, 2016
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:43-45, RSV)
Once again, as too many times before, the horror of a mass shooting has captured our TV screens and dominated headlines. Hate and bigotry and intolerance have led a perverted monster to slaughter innocent people. Each horrible event seems worse than the last, and we seem unable to stop the killing. Sometimes, in despair, we even seem to accept the evil passively as inevitable in this world.
As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, several of the phrases strike me as particularly relevant to the events in Orlando this weekend, as well as the other similar atrocities that have made American place names synonymous with mass murder—Columbine, Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech.
First, “Thy will be done on earth.” This world is our home for all our lives. From what I know and understand of God, it surely is not His will that we cruelly slaughter each other. John writes that “God is love.” I resonate with the bumper sticker that says, “When Jesus says ‘Love your enemies,’ he probably didn’t mean we should kill them.” These shootings of innocents are unspeakably evil, and far outside the will God has for what is to be done on earth.
Then, “Forgive us” and “We forgive those.” The prayer talks about forgiveness twice, both about our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive those who sin against us. Forgiveness is hard. It is hard to forgive someone who has done an appalling deed that has hurt us grievously, as the Orlando massacre did, but the immediate reaction of the members of Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston, after the shooting there, gave us a wonderful example of refusing to surrender to hatred. Jesus told us that forgiving was a necessary precondition for being forgiven. It is also hard to seek forgiveness when we deeply believe we are the ones who have been sinned against. But it is always important to look inside ourselves for any way in which we have been a contributor to the attitudes that can lead to violence. Have we casually made ethnic jokes? Have we judged people of another religion by their stereotypes instead of by their individual character and actions? Have we locked our car doors as we drove through a neighborhood where those of another race live? Have we condoned discrimination against “those people”? We need forgiveness from God and from those against whom we have sinned.
“Lead us not into temptation.” Anger and frustration make us want to lash out, to hurt, to extract revenge on those who hurt us. There is a Satan-inspired temptation to get even, to annihilate those who oppose us. If we trust God rather than relying on our own insights, we can resist this temptation. But if we fall prey to the temptation for revenge, we simply increase the level of hatred and resentment. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Deliver us from evil.” We cannot deny the reality of evil in this world. Selfishness, pride, bigotry, hatred, intolerance undeniably exist. We can, however, work to root out the evil that is within us and to live lives that serve as an example of Jesus’ better way. With God’s help, we can and must do more to combat evil than just “a moment of silence” for the victims. Love is an action verb. We must act.
“For Thine is the power.” God, and only God, ultimately has the power to save us from the evil that surrounds us. We plead for God to use His power to empower us to oppose the evil in our midst.
Prayer: Holy and loving God, help us to be holy and loving too. “Save us from weak resignation to the evil we deplore”. Let us know how to combat evil in the world in the way you would have us do, and give us the courage and strength to accomplish it. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Amen.