We pray today for these victims and their families— not gay or straight, black or white, Democrat or Republican, Christian or Jew or Muslim or none of the above, but as You see them–beloved sons, daughters, friends, sisters, brothers, neighbors, and most of all, fellow Americans.
As a minister, writer, and songwriter, I am always vexed when events of great magnitude happen. What words are adequate for such a moment? The shootings in Orlando, done by a single darkened soul under the sound and fury of evil ideology left us once again speechless. Except, everywhere, we started talking, typing, blaming, searching for answers. Many offered easy ones, mostly the same ones, and few people seem to change their minds. “If only everyone would….”
But the children, sisters, brothers and friends are still dead. I have searched my own soul, and pondered, “What more can I do?” There have been, according to a report I heard 133 mass shootings in the US (four or more murdered) in this year. Terror, violence, hatred, fear, loathing of people we don’t know or understand.
We ought properly to finish grieving the dead before answers can come. Unfortunately, I agreed last week to give the Invocation at our local Chamber of Commerce meeting here in Alabama. I had no idea in a sleepy summer week what that would mean. And so I offered these words. They are mine, to God. I was glad for others to listen in. If it helped them, or you, please have them. May God bless us all, and help us to drive hate from our midst so that love may blossom again.
Prayer by Dr. Gary Furr, Pastor, Vestavia Hills Baptist Church
Offered at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon,
June 14, 2016 Vestavia Hills, Alabama
Oh God our Creator and Lord
We come to this regular gathering–but today is no ordinary day.
The parade of mass killings in our nation has become all too familiar,
But still, it horrifies us—and now,
A nightclub full of young people and their friends shot down for nothing more
than the rantings of a demented man,
a mind full of lies and twisted truths, in the name of religion.
We pray today for these victims and their families— not gay or straight, black or white,
Democrat or Republican, Christian or Jew or Muslim or none of the above,
but as You see them–beloved sons, daughters, friends, sisters, brothers, neighbors,
and most of all, fellow Americans.
We grieve with broken hearts for the dead, and their parents and siblings and grandparents
for doctors and nurses and responders and those who donate and care for them.
We pray for people who listen to empty ideologies of hate and choose to see us as enemies
because they are afraid of the great gift of freedom and of the competition of ideas
We thank you for the blessings of life and Liberty
for freedom of religion and conscience
the freedom to dissent and disagree argue and raise our voices
and still sit at table together.
We pray at this time of seeking leadership that you would guide each of us.
Let leadership rise up in every corner that we would find courage to speak out,
Grant us wisdom to speak calmly and truthfully,
and not merely from the anxiety of those around us,
and the principled confidence to speak for all and not merely ourselves,
May our children see us love one another as You do,
and be unafraid to do what is right,
Send thundering avalanches of kindness upon us
A tidal wave of civic virtue and principled honor within us
An earthquake of courage and sacrificial spirit
A floodtide of understanding and patience born of confidence in truth,
And may they bring forth deeds of righteousness and peace
that drown out all narrow bigotry, convenience and hate.
We pray for the leadership of our state of Alabama in a time when we are
passing through great crisis of confidence.
We pray for all those who lead to have the courage of service
rather than the spirit of entitlement.
Perhaps it is not even necessary for us any longer to speak of
“hating the sin and loving the sinner.”
for you alone are judge of the world, and our own sins are equally repugnant.
Let us instead simply seek to love you with all our heart
and love our neighbor as ourselves,
leaving judgment in your wise care, knowing that You will execute it faithfully.
So with a deeper sense of urgency we ask
that you might bless this meal, and bless America
and that in this time, as in all times,
that You might out of the most terrible deeds of evil
bring forth unexpected surprises of Hope and grace and blessing. Amen