The nature of “terror fatigue” being what it is, we might be forgiven for not including some green or black on our Facebook profiles to express solidarity with the other nations attacked on Friday the 13th. Regardless, while distractions abound, we do want to think about how to respond meaningfully – prayerfully – to the realities forcing their attention on us from every corner of the world.
It is important to remember that, although there are obvious flesh and blood perpetrators, our enemies are not primarily flesh and blood; rather, they are the principalities and powers that lie behind the systemic evil encouraging such dehumanizing terror. Paul’s directs the church at Ephesus to put on the defensive armor described, and to stand firm, holding the ground that God has already taken. In addition to that defensive posture, built on the Roman militaries tortoise model, Paul begins and ends his instruction with the challenge to pray.
With that in mind, it might be helpful to think about how we might take Paul seriously, joining our voices in the chorus of prayer ascending in the wake of this most recent terror. One way to do that would be to reflect on your emotional reaction upon hearing the news last week. That initial response might be a good place to begin your intercession.
If you found yourself angry – begin by praying your anger. There are numerous angry psalms that instruct us in this kind of praying – where we cry out to God on behalf of those who have been violated in unspeakable ways. We don’t just pray about our anger – we pray our anger – we lift it at volume into the heavens, joining in solidarity with those whose humanity has been disregarded. We call for justice – we lift the perpetrators to God, perhaps with instructions on what He ought do to them. And we choose to trust Him to do what is right and righteous. Finally, we pray that the core emotions of love and joy inform our response.
If, however, you found yourself saddened – begin by praying your sorrow. Let your tears mingle with God’s, weeping over what we have done with the beauty He created, weeping for lives lost, families shattered, children orphaned, promises now impossible to keep. Again, the psalms give us many examples of sorrow that cries out for comfort – the wails in grief. And so we pray that the Good Shepherd would create a place of hospitable comfort in the presence of faceless enemies, hiding in the shadows of the valley. And we pray that love and joy would inform our sorrow with hope.
But if your initial response was fear – begin by praying your fear. Enter into the nights of terror with those who feel every bump, who hear every whisper of threat. Help them carry their fear well – and to the Father. There are psalms that give voice to defining fear, that are built on faith strong enough to cry out in the dark, that bring us to the awareness of a present help in time of trouble. One who has come to us, walking across the seas. One whose presence is peace. And, as we pray, we lean into love and joy which enable us to face our fear with courage, knowing we are never alone.
The invitations that our emotions present give us a place of action as part of the Body of Christ – prayer is our first and most powerful response to any reality. And, always, it is rooted in longing – “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Amen and amen.