Dear Father, it happened again. 17 lives lost. 50 injured. Hundreds of children and dozens of teachers are traumatized. Families are suffering with incomprehensible grief. The conversation last night at home was about a broken heart, an upcoming test, or plans for this upcoming weekend. Tonight, those same teens are survivors of a bloody battlefield they never signed up for. Their lives have been changed for ever. Father, how do we pray about this? We don’t know. Nobody knows. We can’t answer the questions the grieving shout at You tonight. They wonder where You were. They wonder why You didn’t stop this. Father, no words can truly answer these questions this hour. However, we will try to make sense of this.
You are the all-loving, all-compassionate, all-merciful, and all-generous God. It is Your nature to nurture, to provide, and to protect. As an expression of Your goodness, You have given us two simple commands. We are to love You with all our heart, soul, and mind and we are to love our neighbor.
However, we have rebelled from You. We want nothing to do with Your ways or Your commands. We want to be our own gods. We want to do what we want to do, say what we want to say, think what we want to think, feel what we want to feel, and decide what we want to decide. The greatest moral virtue many people have in today’s world is to let everyone define for themselves what is right and what is wrong. To question that value is to be labeled intolerant.
You give us free will. Yes, You are sovereign and all things work according to Your plan. That means You take good things and make them even better. It also means You take bad things and turn them into good things. However, You give humans the opportunity to obey You or disobey You. Sometimes, people who have rejected Your ways walk into schools like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL with AR-15 rifles and multiple magazines. They travel from classroom to classroom shooting innocent teenagers.
Why didn’t You stop 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz? Because all of us want our free will. We don’t want You telling us how to live our lives. We don’t want You to force us to do things we don’t want to do. We don’t want You to prevent us from doing what we want to do. We want You to leave us alone. And yet we blame You when a gun-obsessed teen, previously expelled from the school and hell-bent on revenge, brings the stench of shed blood into our classrooms.
Father, forgive us. We are all too blame. All of us. All of us who reject Your commands to love You and to love our neighbors. All of us who celebrate rebellion from God in our culture.
Father, I ask for the following things this evening:
- May all those who were shot this afternoon recover from their injuries. Give the victims the finest of medical care and may the medicines and procedures effectively restore the health of each person who survived. Give their friends and loved ones Your grace. They need hope. They need comfort. They need peace. They need understanding. They need strength because their injured loves ones need them to be strong.
- May You empower an army of men and women with miraculous gifts of counseling to descend upon this school community. Right now, many people can’t put their thoughts into words. However, they will need to talk through their pain and they will need skilled and loving counselors to listen at the right time. Give these counselors the words of comfort all of the victims, their families, the staff, and the first responders so desperately need. I pray that not one person traumatized by the horrific events of this day will be denied the counseling they need so much.
- May You please embrace the families who lost loved ones today. Father, be present with them. Comfort them. Protect them from the enemy who celebrates and mocks their sobbing. Meet their every need. Surround them with incredible love, miraculous compassion. Get them through the funerals and the long road of recovery that lies ahead of them.
- May Your church in Florida minister to this school community. May the suffering see the love of Christ through the acts of compassion of local churches.
- May You please change people’s hearts and minds through this catastrophe. Lead people to surrender their lives to You. Lead people to see that Your way is the way of love. Lead people to see that when they follow You faithfully they will become more loving, kind, generous, patient, joyful, peaceful, good, and self-controlled. I ask that You begin writing amazing testimonies of spiritual renewal in this horror that will inspire people in the 2020s and beyond.
- May justice be served. May the one who committed this crime receive the punishment that You believe they deserve.
- However, You are the God of unfathomable love. Therefore, we must also pray for the shooter. Father, transform Nicolas Cruz. Give him remorse. Lead him to confession and repentance. Lead him to long for a new heart. Lead him to ask You for forgiveness. Lead him to surrender his remaining time on earth to You. Show us that no one is too far from Your ability to rescue. Not even a mass shooter of innocent children in high school.
- There are young people this very night in towns across America who are glued to the television or Internet. They are bitter and they seek revenge for hurts they have allegedly experienced. They may look at Nicholas as a hero. They may begin plotting their own infamy. Father, I ask that You will jump between them and the innocent they long to hurt. Prevent shootings. May those who long to be infamous be derailed and defeated. Thwart their plans and orchestrate events in their lives where they turn into agents of Your love or they are prevented from getting their hands on weapons of destruction.
- I ask tonight that Your anger rages against the forces of evil who dance with delight about the news of this dark day. Father, I ask for You to have a huge victory in this shooting that leaves the evil one defeated, silenced, ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated.
Father, America doesn’t need gun laws as much as it needs spiritual revival. We already have laws on the books that say murder is not allowed. What we need is a culture that decides that the only outcome of rebellion from God is violence. We need a culture that wakes up and realizes that our only hope is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors.