Summary: Help in how to pray in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
Our lives are still numb from the events of this last week. We’ve experienced a national tragedy of unparalleled proportions. Our hearts are broken for the innocent lives that have been lost, business people and commuters, pilots and flight attendants, firefighters and police officers. We’re struggling to understand how people could be so hateful as to plan such an heartless act of evil against so many innocent people. We’re angry and vengeful, wanting to see the people who’ve done this suffer for what they’ve done.
But we’re also hopeful, believing our nation will recover, that this hateful act of war won’t undermine our nation’s resolve and our people’s resiliency.
I’d like to make a few suggestions for how you and your family can honor Jesus as you walk through this time of pain and grief. I’ve listed these suggestions on your Growth Guide in your bulletin, as well as posting it on our church web site.
First, PRAY. We gathered spontaneously here at the church Tuesday night to humble ourselves and seek the face of God. We’ve prayed together as staff, as ministry leaders, as pastors. We need to intercede for President Bush and his advisors, we need to pray for our intelligence community, our military, the emergency service personnel who are working even as we speak, for the survivors and family members of victims. There will be a prayer vigil here tonight at 7:00 PM to remember those who died. It will start at the fire station and then we will proceed down Euclid to 16th street. The more we pray together about this the better.
We also need to TALK about what we’re experiencing. We don’t deal with grief of this magnitude and traumatic stress by bottling it up, but we need to express it.
We need to talk about our anger and frustration, our pain and grief, our hope and resolve. We need to talk about it with our spouse and our friends, with our coworkers and our neighbors. Perhaps most of all, we need to talk with our kids, listening to their fears and anger, assuring them as best we can.
Third, we need to SHARE our faith in Jesus with those around us. This is no time for timidity or fear because we have hope to share. We need to proceed with gentleness and love, but we need to explain how our faith in Jesus is helping us get through this.
We need to explain how according to the Bible every human being will give an account before God of their actions.
Fourth, we need to RESTRAIN ourselves and encourage those around us to restrain themselves. We’re angry because we’ve been victims of a terrible evil. But since we can’t see the object of our anger, we’ll be tempted to let our anger spill out onto other people.
Even at my son’s elementary school on Tuesday afternoon there were two altercations with people because of their ethnic origin and religious views. We need to realize that if this is the work of Muslim extremists, that this does not reflect the vast, vast majority of Muslims or people of Arabic descent. To lump all Muslims into the category of terrorists is the same thing people do with us as Christians when they claim we’re all cruel and bloodthirsty because of what Christians did in the name of Jesus during the crusades of the middle ages. We can’t let our anger spill over onto people in our communities just because we know they’re Muslim or because they appear to be of middle eastern descent. History will judge our nation as to whether we restrained our anger, and I’d hate to think our grandchildren would look back on how we as a nation treated others with regret.
The Bible tells us that followers of Jesus must resist the temptation to lash out. The Bible tells us to leave room for God’s wrath. It’s hard to do in the heat of our grief and outrage, but these teachings of the Bible are given for times just like these.
Its at times like that that we demonstrate whether we really believe what the Bible says or whether we’re simply being religious. Now according to the Bible, God’s wrath against evil is sometimes executed by the government. The Bible calls government officials “God’s servant” who exist as “agents of God’s wrath” in Romans 13:4. So as our government investigates what’s happened and takes appropriate action based on their intelligence information, we need to support our government in those actions.
But as individual people who claim to follow Jesus, we need to leave room for God’s wrath to come both imperfectly through our government’s response, and ultimately through God. We need to encourage those around us to restrain themselves from letting their anger spill out onto others, especially our children. We might even find ourselves growing angry because of a longer wait at the airport or because some of the classes had to be canceled today in children’s ministry, and we need to work at restraining that anger rather than letting it spill out on those around us.