In the Wake of Another Shooting, Why We Must Pray

​A special message from Senior Pastor Scott Black Johnston

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am writing to you this morning in the aftermath of the shooting that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. My heart hurts. Seventeen kids. This cannot be normal. We cannot let this become normal. 

When mass shootings occur, politicians often make brief religious statements. They state that they are offering "thoughts and prayers" for the victims and the families of victims. In recent years, these expressions of concern have elicited a backlash of criticism. The general tenor of the feedback is: "We are sick of thoughts and prayers!"

I get it. People want action. They want change. They want this senseless, demonic violence to stop. I do, too. I am not sure, however, that jettisoning prayer is the answer. Here’s what I am thinking this morning:

I wish our politicians would tell us what they were praying. 

A few years ago, I resolved not to tell people, "You are in my thoughts and prayers." I resolved to tell them about the content of my prayers. I now tell people things like, "I am praying that you will be comforted by joyful memories of times spent with your Mom, and that you will find the presence of Christ close at hand as you walk this hard path."

I wish politicians would tell me what they are praying about when these acts of terrible violence rip through our world. Why? Because prayer -- real prayer, honest prayer -- always commits us to being about God’s work in this world. And we all know, deep in our hearts, that gun violence is something God wants us to change.

Instead of abandoning prayer, let’s double-down. Let’s pray like crazy. And let’s hold our leaders accountable for their words. Let’s ask them: "What are you praying?"

Here is a prayer I offered this morning:

O God, the only true source of wholeness and peace, in a world bearing fresh wounds, we ask for your help and guidance.

As we move through this hard time, please endow us with the compassion to embrace our neighbors, the courage to bear one another's burdens and hearts unafraid to weep with those who weep.

As we consider our response to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, save us from weak resignation, help us start the conversations that will find sensible solutions to gun violence. Help us take positive steps, real steps, bold steps toward preventing future massacres.

Fill us this day with the love of Christ, that we might seek good for all people. That we might encourage politicians, principals and teachers, students, police and neighbors to work together to weave a society in which these things never happen. Never.

Let us not tire. Do not let us be overcome by evil. Help us overcome evil with good.

O Lord, pour a balm on us, help us to heal, for you alone are our refuge and strength, our help in time of trouble. Help us to show in our lives what we proclaim with our lips: Good is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; hope is stronger than despair. Amen.

Bless you this day, this ashes-still-blowing-in-the-wind day,


This entry was posted in General News

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church