On Saturday evening, as another tragedy unfolded – this time on the streets of London – I watched my monitor in horror and joined in to #prayforlondon along with many others watching from around the world.
I’m new to Twitter, but I’m adept enough to follow a hashtag. I refreshed every 30 seconds, scouring the storm of tweets for some sort of authoritative report. Some sort of answer, as if evil incarnate is a question with an answer.
Credible reports were few, but I persevered as the evening continued and my monitor filled with so many emotionally charged words, which fell loosely into three categories:
- Expressions of sorrow, and spiritual and emotional support (including offers to open ones home to strangers in need)
- Mocking (mocking specifically anyone who may have failed to foresee the tragedy, and mocking those who were #PrayingforLondon).
Item 3 bugged me. A lot. I felt heartsick for London, and then chided for praying for them? As if I could do anything else? My fingertips burned as I readied a blistering retort.
Then I remembered what I tell my kids. “You’re mad. I get it. But right now the best thing is for you to go cool off and we’ll talk when you’re ready to be reasonable.” Turns out, this applies to grown-ups, too.
So I’ve been to my room and I’ve counted to ten and I’ve quietly sought guidance, because sometimes the world looks hopeless. But it’s not hopeless, not so long as good remains in and around us.
So, for those of you offering prayer and support, you keep on. Sending love and prayer and support, whether from next door or the next planet, who can say which matters more? That we care, in itself, is proof of love and reason for hope.
Blaming. If I’m honest with myself, this was my first reaction, too. I’m way across the pond and yet I felt the helplessness and the fury, and I made assumptions. Do I think we are wrong for having these emotions? I don’t know. I’m not sure we can help how we feel; only how we act – and blame feels justified and cathartic in the moment, but does it ever affect any real change? I saw so much passion and intelligence simmering beneath hundreds of angry tweets. Imagine if every person channeled that anger into constructive and productive action? From neighborhood watches to emergency shelters to policy changes…
To the prayer-shamers. The main theme from these tweets was, “don’t pray; do something. Prayer does nothing. We need action.” Here is where I fundamentally disagree.
We. Need. Both.
If, in such an intense and dangerous situation, you happen to have a skill set that would thwart a terror attack and have the means and security clearance to engage, then by all means, act (and from the looks of it, everyone with the ability and capacity to act, did act). Beyond that, what else can we physically do? That is part of why these attacks feel so terribly violating; so many of us can physically do nothing to help. We know this. Don’t mock us for it.
But we can pray. We can speak life and love to those hurting in ways we can’t imagine. You assert that my prayers do nothing, but how could you possibly know? Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant; either He exists, or He doesn’t. I believe He does, and neither of us can prove or disprove it. That is the entire point of faith, to believe in things unseen.
So I would ask you, if you’re a prayer-shamer, the next time tragedy befalls a community of the world, to encourage those offering help in all its forms. Those who are speaking up, speaking against evil and for good, whether we’re angry or brave or scared or sad, we are all on the same side. Let’s not splinter.
So yes, I’m #PrayingforLondon, and for the hearts and minds of all those dealing with Saturday’s aftermath.