When evil seems unceasing, how do we keep praying for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done? What does that even look like?
Daily we witness a seemingly unstoppable barrage of evil. And I wonder: how can I keep praying for these people, these lives, these tragedies, as Jesus taught us to? I’m not sure I even know how.
My heart aches for the many lives devastated by this religiously-fueled hate crime in Florida. I listened for my first time this weekend as Christie Grimmie sang “In Christ Alone”, wondering how her family and friends must be struggling to make sense of her tragic murder. And then I think of the mourning family of Robert Hall, yet another hostage beheaded in the Philippines after long months of praying for his release. And dare I even mention the young woman so callously disregarded by her Stanford rapist?
These four tragedies only sample a few days worth of life-destroying evil, main page kind of stuff we’ve all heard about. How many more stories, untold, unnoticed, reek and fester in the cracks of our broken world?
And yet this is the world the Father loves. This is the world Jesus came to redeem. This is the world over which the Spirit hovers, bringing new life and promising more.
And it is into this mess that Jesus taught us to pray, asking our Father–his, yours, mine–that his kingdom would come and his will would be done on this earth, this world, in these communities, in these lives–as it is in the very place where God rules supreme.
And so I keep praying, feeling inadequate, confused, and not possessing all the facts. I pray unaware of all the complexities and ignorant to the many tragedies which unfold unreported. I pray with a sense of my own powerlessness. I pray conflicted and overwhelmed. And yet I do pray.
Why do I keep praying?
First, because Jesus taught us to pray. If there is anyone who knows just how short-sighted and ill-informed we are, it is Jesus. And yet he told us to pray this way: “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus did not tell us to wait until we have a full grip on what happened, abstaining from prayer until we know exactly who’s at fault or what’s going on or how we should word things or where stories might go politically. No, he called us to ask our Father for his will to be done, even when (especially when?) we don’t even know what that might mean.
Second, I keep praying because somehow, mysteriously and remarkably, my feeble and confused prayers are taken up by Jesus and the Holy Spirit and transformed into meaningful, powerful prayers according to the will of God. Our prayers are more potent than we can imagine, not because of something inherent within them but because of where our prayers go–because of who is hearing them! When I am the most confused, knowing the Spirit and the Son are handling my prayers makes all the difference for me. I don’t need to get everything right. I don’t need to fully understand. I don’t need to measure my words so carefully in fear of saying something wrong. All I need to do is point my prayers in the right direction, and they’ll be taken care of, made right, offered properly to the Father by Two Able Advocates who really are in full possession of the facts and are committed to making this world whole again.
Thirdly, I keep praying because I’m convinced that God transforms us through prayer, softening our hearts and strengthening our resolve, so that, just as we pray for his kingdom to come into situations “out there”, we become more committed to living out his kingdom in our own lives and community. I do believe God hears our prayers and through them affects the world. But the first effect of prayer is often within our own selves–as we let the Spirit take our words, he starts working deeply within us, too.
And fourth, I keep praying because I trust the goodness of the Father who hears us, who asks us to partner with him, who bends down to gather us up, who takes our prayers seriously. And he is powerful. He sees all and knows all and will bring all into alignment with his loving, good and perfect will. I keep praying because God is on the throne, and even though I can’t see how, he really will bring this broken world to full redemption. He really is making everything new. He guarantees it.
So I keep praying. For today, I pray:
Our Father, you are good. We trust you and want your love and goodness to be known in all the world. Let your kingdom come in Orlando! May your will be done in the lives of each person so tragically shattered by this heinous act of hate. May your will be done in the family of Christie Grimmie, in the family of Robert Hall, in the family of both rapist and victim. We pray for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth, on this broken, shattered, sin-filled earth, just as it is where you reign supreme, where your love has overcome, where death is no longer powerful in any way. And for the many situations, tragedies and hurts which continue to seep from the cracks unseen by most, we pray for your all-seeing Spirit to work and to heal and to restore, to bring your justice and mercy and grace to bear where there has been only injustice and fear and terror.
May your will be done in us, your people. Deliver us from evil, forgive us where we have failed to pray, failed to love, failed to forgive, speaking in anger or rage or disgust when you were calling us to speak with love and peace and forgiveness. May your church rise up as the community of hope and healing you created us to be. May we offer solace and comfort, protection and honor. May we offer hope and grace. May we offer you, Father, as the only One who can take our shattered lives and make them whole again.
We don’t know how to pray, but we know you hear us anyway. Thank you for taking up our feeble prayers, making up for our misunderstandings, our vanity and narcissism, our ignorance and our fear. Thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit, who always intercedes for us, making our powerless words powerful.
May your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. May your will be done in me, in us, in your church. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen.