Before worship on Sunday I checked the news about the tragic shooting in Orlando. The report at the time was that 20 people were dead. During worship we prayed for the families of the victims. By Sunday afternoon the number of dead had risen to 50.
That does not seem right, but it happened in lots of churches. We prayed for the families of 20 people who had been killed, and then the news got even worse.
We have way too much evidence that prayer does not work the way we wish prayer would work. Prayer does not keep the news from getting worse. Prayer does not protect innocent people. Prayer does not prevent hateful people from buying guns.
We have gotten used to praying after horrific events; Littleton, 2012, 12 deaths; Newtown, 2012, 28 deaths; San Bernardino, 2015, 14 deaths. Each time, our hearts are broken. Each time, we pray fervently. Each time, we remember the lives snatched away by gun violence. Each time, we experience grief and despair. Each time, nothing seems to change. We have started to feel numb to it.
We do not need to pray silently. We need to make our voices heard. People who pray do not have to agree on the exact interpretation of the Second Amendment to agree that gun violence is a national tragedy. We can point out that there are options between taking all the guns away and the AR-15s that keep being the instrument in these shootings remaining readily available. 4 of 5 NRA members support expanded background checks. There is plenty of room for improvement in the space between the two sides in this debate.
People who pray need to talk to their elected officials before the next tragedy. Innocent people are murdered with weapons specifically designed for killing and we behave as if nothing can be done, but representatives do change their position when enough people speak up. We can push for common-sense gun laws that will prevent more tragic bloodshed. People who pray should protest gun shows—where many of the rules about background checks and waiting periods do not apply. We need to work for change that will make our communities safer.
We have gotten too used to praying after mass shootings. We have to do more. Our prayers will feel routine until we pray, “God, show me what I can do.”