In the wake of yet two more mass shootings in this country I have seen many posts crying for politicians to strengthen gun laws to help prevent future crime. One of the phrases I have seen repeated more frequently recently is summed up in the picture below. The sentiment expressed recognizes that far too often politicians, media representatives, celebrities, and law enforcement officials say something like, “our thoughts and prayers are with…” but then nothing happens. Unfortunately, many then conclude that prayers are useless to come to real civil healing. (Here I wish I had the wit of G.K. Chesterton who would put this far better than I).
While I do not disagree that political action should be taken, the problem with the idea expressed in the photo is that I don’t think anyone has actually tried thinking and praying. To paraphrase Chesterton, it’s not that “thoughts & prayers” have been tried and found wanting; rather “thoughts & prayers” have been found difficult and left untried. prayer is a deep long lasting commitment to engage in dialogue with God over why something is the way it is and to try to find ways to change the situation. Why do we allow people to throw the word about as if they mentioned a situation once, left it entirely in God’s hands and moved on? Why aren’t we as Americans holding elected officials, media talking heads, and law enforcement officials accountable when they say their thoughts and prayers are with the situation? We allow such individuals to act as if prayer is a one-time event designed to bring instant healing to the situation and nothing more. But prayer is a long-term commitment to resolve the situation through the collaborative efforts of God and humanity.
I have a list of several people I pray for and they are on the list for various reasons. When I am praying for people who battle depression and my mind is on then I am more aware of signs of depression in people I encounter. When I pray for couples dealing with strain in their marriage I focus more on building up my marriage and those of others around me. The point is as my thoughts and prayers turn to these dysfunctions in life I look to prevent and correct them. Further, as groups of God’s people commit to prayer even greater things happen as whole segments of society change as these people begin to work with God to find answers to issues. Of course I have said nothing of God’s individual actions within given situations.
Yes restrictive gun laws will curb the number of shootings but they will not address the hated and violence so pervasive in our society. Restrictive gun laws will do enough to prevent mass shootings to ease the collective conscience of the nation but they alone are not the answer. My argument is not inherently against such laws simply a recognition that they are not enough. Rather, I argue that prayers will help guide us to laws which are more effective and spirits- individual and collective- which do not need such laws but live in freedom from such hatred and violence.
Legislative action cannot provide the true change in character needed to prevent the violence we continue to see. It is precisely as we continually have the victims of such tragic circumstances in our collective and individual thoughts and prayers that we will understand how to deal with the hated and violence festering in our society. When we remember the hurt of loss, the pain of grief, the struggle and strain of recovery we begin to work to end such misery. Daily prayer for the individuals involved forces the pray-er to remember what the cost of violence is and that individual (unless remarkable cold) will want to change the circumstances which caused the violence.
I am also aware that many will use arguments similar to mine to justify taking no legislative action against firearms. This way of thinking often results in an ostrich mentality toward the ease of access to weapons in this country. But neither do I want to be an ostrich when it comes to the worth of prayer. I want to recognize that part of what is necessary in ending mass shootings is ending the mindsets which trigger such violence. These mental, emotional, & spiritual dysfunctions cannot be fixed by Congress. How about as we hear people saying their thoughts & prayers are with the victims let’s hold them to that asking them every week if they pray for
- the survivors and their families
- The families of the deceased
- The families of the perpetrators
- The officers called to the scene
- The shooters
And let’s ask what have you learned about these individuals and groups? Where have you seen and attempted to intervene in the dysfunction which causes such violence? Let’s not take the easy way out let’s keep these events so much in our collective conscience through thoughts and prayers that we snuff them out completely. May we truly endeavor to maintain in prayer until the problems are solved.