15 Prayers for a Violent World

In an age weary with suffering, how can we pray?

As the father of two elementary-aged children, the news of the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas—just three hours south of my home in Austin, which resulted in the death of 19 children and 2 teachers—shook me deeply.

Driving my daughter to school the morning after, I felt acutely the fragility and unpredictability of life, and I found myself becoming intensely afraid—and increasingly angry.

Only 10 days prior, a racially motivated 18-year-old man, dressed in body armor and wielding a rifle with a high-capacity magazine, shot and killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, wounding 3 others. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black.

A day after the mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets store in upstate New York, a gunman entered Geneva Presbyterian Church, in Laguna Woods, California—where a group of parishioners had gathered for a lunch to honor a former pastor of a Taiwanese congregation that uses the church for its worship services—and shot and killed one person and wounded five others.

One nation bombs another, a denomination keeps a secret list of abusive pastors, a man is profiled because of his skin color, a Christian is persecuted because of her faith, and thousands are cruelly displaced from their homes—all of it occurring against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

It’s tempting to shut down emotionally in light of all of this violence. It’s tempting to give into despair. “So goes the world,” we might say, wishing it were otherwise but feeling powerless to make a difference. It’s tempting to distract ourselves with busywork or to reach for spiritual platitudes to numb the pain. “Let go and let God.” “God works …

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