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How to Pray, and How Not to Pray Following a Tragedy

It happened again last week – another mass shooting, this time at the Santa Fe High School in southeast Texas. Previously, this High School was perhaps best known for its role in the fight against school prayer in the 1990s. In 2000, the Supreme Court struck down the school’s long-standing tradition of prayer before football games, ruling that prayer over the stadium’s public-address system violated the separation of church and state. Ironically, last Friday, a member of the school’s football team, killed eight classmates, and two teachers, and wounded thirteen others. And once again, many in the media showed their complete lack of understanding of the role of prayer in a time of tragedy. National and local news commentators read the names of the ten victims of the shooting, and concluded with, “remember to keep these victims in your prayers,” or something similar. Forgive this old professor’s attempt to respond to a “teachable moment,” but I have been praying for the families of the victims, the students who were injured, the officer who was injured, the students who will have a hard time living with the images of last Friday morning, the families who will remember where they were when they got a message from their frightened child, for school personnel who must now finish the semester, for the shooter and his family, for the community, for the state, for politicians who always rush to the scene, and seem to get on camera, but do nothing to prevent a reoccurrence of the tragedy. I’ve even prayed for our country. While I grieve for the victims, they are now beyond the reach of my prayer. I have been praying that their death might finally cause someone, somewhere, to do something to prevent this from happening again. And maybe I should pray that the news media take a crash course in prayer. Just three months ago, I posted “Thoughts and Prayers and More” following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I attempted to say then, that while “sending thoughts and prayers your way” was meant for good, it was misdirected and incorrect. Prayer should only be directed to God. I also said then, and I repeat now, prayer is appropriate, needed, and good, but it is not enough. Since then, reasonable suggestions that would make mass shootings less frequent, have been made, but little to nothing has been done. A Parkland student pleaded a response to the Santa Fe shooting, “This is the 22nd shooting just this year. DO SOMETHING!” I agree and repeat my scripture from my February 26 post – “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

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