This morning, most Americans are waking up to news of another mass shooting—this time in Las Vegas—and, this time, the worst in our country’s history.
We will sit in front of the TV, our regular morning routine put on hold as we see the all-too-familiar images of police setting up barricades, victims being evacuated, and a slowly increasing casualty count scrolling across the bottom of the screen. In our shock, we often default to news consumption, waiting on every bit of information:
Who was the shooter and why did he do this?
What about the wounded?
What does this mean moving forward?
What needs to change in our country?
These questions are important questions, but let me propose for Christians that after we have learned of the shooting, we turn away a moment from news consumption and turn towards prayer.
I wrote in response to San Bernardino that prayer is often depicted as “not enough” or, even worse, as political posturing. But Scripture both models and teaches that prayer is central to the Christian life. Regrettably, #ThoughtsAndPrayers was already trending this morning on Twitter, but not in a good way.
Some will criticize politicians for their prayers today, calling them to action. But, I’m not a lawmaker and I think prayer is action. Not the only action needed, but a good one right now in this moment.
I don’t know all the details and I am not in Las Vegas, but I do have a heavenly father who hears my prayers as I cry out to him.
Here are three things you can pray for this morning as you process these news stories.
1. Pray for the Victims
As of this morning there are at least 50 people dead and over 200 injured. As was the case with Orlando, San Bernardino, Newton, and others in recent memory, mass casualty attacks invariably leave a wake of destruction. And, if we are honest, in addition to feeling sadness, we are angry. Indeed, if we look at Scripture, we find that this response is normal.
As those who want to see God’s kingdom come here on earth, our anger is a reflection of how things are not right in this world. In fact, our anger can spur us on to greater love and deeper prayer for God’s healing and shalom to come during times of great tragedy like this.
As we recognize our anger, we then pray with an attitude of confession and expectation. Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter one is an example of one receiving terrible news of devastation far away. He started his prayer and fasting by confessing his own sin. He then gave himself to the task and expected that God would empower him to be a blessing. So can we.
So we pray for healing for the survivors and for their loved ones. We ask God to bring not only physical and emotional healing, but spiritual assistance. This spiritual assistance takes many forms—words of encouragement from believers spoken at the right time and in the right attitude, reminders that we have a God who cares for us and who himself is familiar with great pain, etc.
2. Pray for Our Civic Leaders
In the political division we face, praying for our civic leaders can be difficult for many of us. This past week has been a good example of that.
Of course, people will bring lots of issues to these conversations. But, when a national tragedy occurs, before we begin arguing about who is right and wrong and why this happened and how we can stop it, we first sit in the pain and weep with those who weep.
Indeed, questions of mental health, gun laws, and the source of the hate are, indeed, appropriate questions to ask and discuss. But 1 Timothy 2:1-2 actually commands us to pray in intercession and thanksgiving for “kings and all those in authority.” Leading through crisis is harrowing and can be magnified by everyone looking to you for answers. The president, Congress, and local law enforcement are not only grieving as we are, but are responsible to lead in the aftermath.
Regardless of our political divisions and how personally difficult it is to pray for certain civic officials, our faith demands that we submit ourselves in humility to praying for our leaders. You can join me in praying for Las Vegas sheriff Joseph Lombardo, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, and President Trump.
Pray honestly and fervently for their wisdom in navigating the treacherous roads ahead. Pray that they’d make wise choices for the safety of our nation and its people. Pray that they would have wisdom and discernment during the crisis so as to bring unity and leadership to those in need.
3. Pray for Las Vegas Churches
Las Vegas is often known as “sin city,” and (surely) some fool will say this is the judgement of God, forgetting that Bible-belt Houston was just hit with a hurricane. And, of course, some in the media will make that person that no one has ever heard of into a nationally prominent voice.
As Christ-followers, our place is not to judge, but to humble ourselves in unity with our brothers and sisters who are grieving.
We must pray for the churches in Las Vegas to be ministers of the gospel in the midst of this loss. As Paul asked of the early church in Colossians 4:3, we must pray that God would open a window for us to share the love of Christ in the midst of the pain. Just as God’s church has led the response to hurricane relief, pray that it would now again be a light in Las Vegas. They need all of our encouragement and support during this time.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I visited with my friend Vance Pitman of Hope Church in Las Vegas. Their church has been, as their name says, a bearer of hope for many years in Las Vegas, but that word takes on new meaning now.
And many other churches will bear that hope as well. And, we pray they will.
Going Forward on Our Knees
Now, we must do more than pray. Issues, some controversial, must be addressed. But, all of us can agree to pray in this moment.
Let’s pray for comfort for the hurting, echoing the words of Paul speaking of God, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
Then, we can pray the words of Jesus: “Thy kingdom come, thy will done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Clearly, the world is not as Jesus desires it to be, and we pray for him to make all things right. God’s kingdom is one that is holy and right and without pain and suffering. Lord Jesus, this is what we long for today and always.
Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord, and fix this broken world.
For us, #PrayForLasVegas is not a political act. It’s actually a powerful one.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.