Prayers for Newtown

Prayer Candles

I didn’t have to preach on Sunday, December 16 – the day after Adam Lanza gunned down 20 elementary school children, 6 of their teachers, and his mother. I haven’t had to confront this tragedy  the way some other pastors have had to face it.  I don’t know anyone directly affected by the massacre.  Yet, as I prepare to celebrate Christmas in Hyattsville (some 300 miles southwest of Newtown along the 1-95 corridor) I feel singed as if by powder burns.

Adam Lanza did more than  shoot a class of innocent, defenseless first graders. He left a .223 caliber exit wound in the collective consciousness of America.

Part of the sting comes from wanting to do something but not knowing what to do.  Some are campaigning for gun control.  Others are advocating for more and better mental health care.  Still others are sending gifts to Newtown.  I recently read that well-wishers from all over the world have flooded this community of 28,000 people has with 60,000 teddy bears.  I applaud theses efforts, but none of them will ever be enough – for those giving or those receiving.

What I know to do is pray. At least, that’s the only place I know to begin.  Following Christ is not a stationary (and never a sedentary!) activity, even when we are still, seeking to know that the Lord is God. If what we call prayer is more than wishful thinking, it must always draw us up off our knees – either to acts of ministry or to stand ready with straighter posture and sharper vision.  Prayer moves us. I do not yet know how to move, exactly; but I continue to pray so that I might continue to be ready.

And so for what it’s worth, I’d like to offer these prayers for Newtown on this Christmas Eve.  They were first offered on Sunday, December 16, prior to our church Christmas play. They continue to be prayed – for the victims and for us all, that we may heal and learn to wrestle with the questions surrounding this tragedy without forcing answers.

Lord, today as the candles of Advent glow in our midst, a thick cloud hangs over our hearts.  We are struggling to comprehend the slaughter of the innocents that took place in Newtown, Connecticut.   Such violence.  Such grief.  Such pain. We turn to you, O Lord: our Rock, our Redeemer; our Shepherd, our Savior, our Sustainer.  We turn to you for comfort, for strength, for relief… for we are weary and heavy laden.  Hear our prayers and help us to pray.  Create in us clean hearts; renew our spirits, and transform our minds. And as we pray, remind us who we are and whose we are in this holy season of Advent.

As a people blessed to mourn, let us pray for the community of Newtown and all who are grieved – around the country and around the world – by what has happened there. May we be comforted.

As a people called to weep with those who weep, let us pray for the victims of the Newtown tragedy and their loved ones, for whom this Advent must seem devoid of anything resembling hope, peace, joy, or love.

As a people called to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, let us pray – as hard as it may be – for the gunman, Adam Lanza, and those who loved him.

As a people called to go the extra mile, let us pray a special prayer for Adam’s brother, Ryan, who has not only lost his brother and his mother just before Christmas but who must live with the anguish of knowing that his brother killed his mother before shooting 26 other people – most of them children.

As a people called to make disciples of all nations, let us pray that the hope, peace, joy, and love of this Advent season will not be lost in the wake of this tragedy.  Let us be inspired to continue celebrating the promise of Christmas. Let us be inspired to continue singing with the angels  – not to deny the deep darkness of these days, but to proclaim that in the darkness there is a light that shines; that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; and the great light that shines is a light that darkness does not – and cannot – overcome. 

Finally, as a people blessed to hunger and thirst for righteousness, let us pray together the prayer our Lord taught us to pray, saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever.  Amen.

Amen.

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