How do you pray after something like the Paris attacks?
On Sunday Dr. Piermont included in our “pastoral prayer” these words:
“We are stunned this weekend to learn of terrorism and slaughter in Paris—the second time in a year—at the hands of those whose aggression, however misguided, is explicitly anti-Christian and anti-West. Once again we see that evil is loose and so often feels more powerful than we. Remind us once again, O Lord, that you are more powerful than evil. Remember your people, your world. Show us again your mighty hand and outstretched arm, and come to our rescue. Heal the wounded, and hold dear those who now mourn. Bless all peace-loving people with strength and resilience. Give courage to world leaders. Guard us from returning evil with evil, and guide us to answer evil with justice.”
It is a prayer we can continue to pray this week, and it is a prayer that resonates with prayers found in the Bible—in the Psalms. Walter Brueggemann points out that in our prayer book—in the Psalms—we have certain prayers that we have avoided. They are “uncensored,” and raw. Brueggemann calls them “Psalms of Disorientation.” They are very honest to God, with strong words. Psalm 74 is a good example. They are prayers filled with anger, frustration, and pain. “Where are you, God?” they demand, “How long must we suffer this way?”
In our Psalms class on Sunday one of my friends wept as she read one of these Psalms aloud to the class. This was a safe place in which to weep. And it felt like God’s Word was doing its holy work. The prayer was God’s Word to us and at the same time our words to God. It was a gift to us, helping us to voice all of our strong emotions—including our fears and our rage at this senseless violence—and in the process God’s Spirit was at work to hear our prayers and to be at work in our souls.
May God be with us as we pray this week, and as we all learn more about the gift and power of God’s Word.