I nearly threw up watching. The image of a man, gasping for air, dying in the streets of Khan Sheikhun, Syria. And I confess, to my shame, that I looked away. Jesus, forgive me.
When I had the courage, I turned back, mind reeling from the latest atrocity committed against God’s human images in Syria.
Babies. Men. Children. Women. People God loves so deeply eradicated so mercilessly. Sarin gas robbing them of precious breath, their last moments of life filled with pain. Lord Jesus, how can we respond to this crime, to this crisis?
One resident tragically describes what he saw:
“I found children lying on the ground, in their last breaths, their lips going blue,” said Abu al-Baraa, who lives nearby and rushed to help when the full extent of what had happened dawned on him.
Standing across the street from the crater left by the missile, he added: “People on the rooftops and in the basements. People on the ground in the street. Wherever you looked there were dead human beings.” – from The Guardian, April 6, 2017.
He couldn’t just look away. He couldn’t just click the “x”. He wasn’t able to just move on with his day. Neither should we.
Responses are coming fast and furious, from air strikes to medical teams to political posturing to stories of blame. Rightful outrage sparked throughout the media. Confusion in the chaos.
But there is one response we must make, as God’s people. Whatever we do, we cannot not pray. We must pray, pray, pray for God’s Spirit to brood over that chaos, for God’s Spirit to bring mercy and justice and grace and peace to a land so fraught with pain and destruction. To pray for life to spring up, to overcome this death, to bring healing and peace to Syria.
When I considered my own prayer–and then our collective prayer–I begin with the words Jesus taught us pray, that the Father’s “kingdom would come and his will would be done” so that we will not be lead into temptation, but delivered from evil and the evil one. Praying the Lord’s prayer can seem so terrifically inadequate at these times, but it’s not. Prayer must be the foundation of our response, so that what we then say or do in response to this evil is shaped by our prior understanding of God’s presence and power. Whatever is said or done by the powers that be, from the US to Russia to Syria itself, we speak as a people under a higher political authority, belonging to a kingdom that is greater, a kingdom to whom all earthly kingdoms will give an account. And we pray for this kingdom to reign, on earth as it is in heaven.
May I offer a prayer right now?
“Lord Jesus, who created each of us, living for us and dying for us and rising for us, hear our prayer today! May your peace and justice reign on this broken, troubled earth. May your people act in the power of your forgiveness and grace, when we are so tempted to strike out in hatred and retaliation. May your people stand for life, as you have called us to stand. May your grace be evident to these families in Syria, who have experienced so much loss. And may your church rise up, from the rubble and from the world, to pray, to serve, to give and to speak, for the sake of these ones you love. May your kingdom, Father, come here on this blood-soaked, sarin-gassed soil. May your will be done from the halls of our power to the streets of our towns. We confess that we are ignorant of so much, but you are not. We confess that we are inadequate in our response–show us your ways to respond. Lead us, Lord, into your path of life, and deliver us–deliver your children in Syria, your children in Khan Sheikhun–from the evil one.”
Our hearts are sick. So I’m asking you: Will you pray for the people of Syria?
Maybe you have questions about why prayer matters, about why prayer in the face of such evil even counts? If you do, I’d like you refer you back to something I wrote last June called “Evil keeps pounding but we keep praying.” In this post, I give four reasons I keep praying in the face of evil, and I hope you will find it helpful.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer and have mercy.