Don’t Panic – Pray!!
The UK threat level is now at critical (though also at “hilarious” thanks to this cartoon) and almost every hour brings more news. Two more arrested this morning and a suspect package this afternoon in the hospital where the suspect from the Glasgow Airport attack is currently being treated.
One reaction to the attack on innocents is to get angry and seek revenge. Certainly, as the events of Saturday afternoon unfolded I wanted to get out of the house and “get them”, whoever those “them” were. But then I though back to another day over a decade ago.
On the 13th of March 1996, Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and shot a number of children point blank. As the news unfolded that morning (and I am a news junkie at the best of times) I remember, amidst the “rip his testicles off” manner of response of those around me at the time, I had just one thing that I wanted to do. I took myself off to my room, closed the door and prayed for the murderer and his family.
I prayed that if the murderer was still alive he would discover God’s mercy. I prayed for the parents and family of the murderer that they would be held in God’s hand at this time. I asked God to bless them.
Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and to bless those who persecute us. That’s a very hard thing to do when people seem to have no conscience and want to attack and maim the most vulnerable and innocent. But praying for your enemies has a number of effects that are surprising.
Firstly, prayer brings us closer to God in crisis. That seems obvious, but prayer for our enemies brings us closer to God in a way that denies the self-centred form of much of our spiritual life. The prayer, “Lord look after that murderer” produces a different sense of my concern for all of God’s creation then “Lord, look after me”.
Secondly, prayer for our enemies reminds us that no-one is beyond the grace of God, despite their sin. Praying for your enemies rests in a good understanding not only of God’s wrath against sin but also of his mercy towards those who fear him. To pray for a terrorist is to with it assume the mighty work of salvation that can attend even the vilest offender.
Thirdly, prayer for our enemies incites social responsibility, for it is not just good enough to pray for things. For example, praying that someone would do something about the local thugs who vandalise the bus shelter should stir one to do something about it. Why are there teenagers hanging around night after night? What’s going on it their homes and family life? What could we do to give their life more purpose? Prayer for our enemies induces us to do something for our enemies.
So don’t let whatever happens over the next few days get in the way of you and God and his creation. Don’t get angry or afraid – rather pray for the bombers and murderers and those who support them. See whether God does a transformation in your heart as you do.