Learning Forgiveness Through Prayer

Tuesday of last week was the last day before the final day of school year 2013-2014 at Reynolds High School in Portland, Oregon. Seniors were already out of school awaiting a graduation ceremony on Thursday evening, and the rest of the student body counted down the hours until summer vacation.

At about 8:15 Tuesday morning, a shooting occurred on the Reynolds campus costing two young men in the freshman class their lives — one killed by the other who then took his own life. Had it not been for the quick thinking of an injured track coach and two resource officers from the Portland Police Department, the results of this incident could have been much worse.

Via KOIN News

Via KOIN News

As the news played out all across the media that Tuesday, it was notable that not much coverage  about the young man who arrived at the school with weapons and ammunition was reported. The focus highlighted the victim and his family and friends. Time was being given not only to identify a suspect but for authorities to gather as much information as possible.

My thoughts went to the family of the victim whose life faded away much too soon. I prayed for his soul, his parents and siblings, classmates, teachers, the officers on site. I prayed for our city and our state. For the youth of our world. So much to pray for, except …

Not once did the family or the perpetrator enter my mind.

Are we not to pray for the one believed to be responsible for a crime committed? Even if we don’t know?

What about after all uncertainty has lifted and we know who is responsible? What then?

Jesus said,

To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (Luke 6:27-30, MSG)

In these verses, Jesus directs us to love our enemies, to respond with prayer energy for that person, and lastly to live generously.

Why is this so hard for us?

A natural response is to fight back. To do otherwise goes against basic human instinct. Our first response is to protect ourselves and others, to seek revenge where an innocent is harmed, and to hope for justice or punishment for the one causing harm. What Jesus requires of us seems impossible!

Yet, God created all of us. The good, the bad, the perpetrator, the victim, the innocent, the evil. We are to pray for all God’s people, not just those we consider good and respectable.

Let’s take a moment in closing to look at Jesus on the cross. He had endured crucifixion, an act soaked in torture and humiliation. And still Jesus was able to say,

Father, forgive these people! They don’t know what they’re doing. (Luke 23:34, CEV)

As followers of Christ, no matter how violent the act may seem, we can embrace Jesus’s example and begin with prayer for all involved in incidents like the one this past week at Reynolds High School.

Luke 6:27

What is your reaction when you hear of another school shooting or mass shooting of any kind? Who do you find yourself praying for? Let’s begin a discussion below.

Blessings,

Sherrey signature B on W

 

 

Linking up today with:

Kelli Woolford @ Unforced Rhythms
Joan @ Sharing His Beauty

on Wednesday with:

Holley Gerth @ Coffee for Your Heart
Jennifer Dukes Lee @ #TellHisStory

 

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14 thoughts on “Learning Forgiveness Through Prayer

  1. Sherry, you brought out some excellent points in your article about forgiveness and prayer. Someone unloading ammo on a school campus brings out a particular outrage in the general public, because we know that children are the most innocent members of society and deserve special care, not harm. And we know that campuses throughout America and the world should be a place for learning, not a war zone where students and staff must wonder if someone among them is entertaining murderous ideas.

    Without God’s help, most of us would be challenged to pray for the assailant. But something amazing happens when we pray; prayer changes us so that we are able to pray for “our enemies.” In a situation as horrendous as a school shooting, God’s heart for the assailant is certainly needed. How else can we pray in an honest and sincere manner?

    Pamela

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    • Pamela, thanks for your visit and insightful comments on this topic. I agree with your words “God’s heart for the assailant is certainly needed.” Visited your blog tonight and “liked” your page on FB as well as following you on Twitter. Look forward to reading more of your writing.

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  2. Great point! I read another post recently – I wish I could remember where and link it here – that spoke about the Amish school shooting as an example of true Christian love and forgiveness. How the Amish community, even the families in mourning, comforted the killer’s wife and family, which she said in return changed her world. God finds ways to work in the worst of situations, so we need to look for those things as well.

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    • Hi Jennine! I vaguely remember the Amish school shooting you reference. I have seen other examples of this extension of love in times of tragedy. God truly is in the midst of everything affecting our lives and uses even the most difficult to do His work. Thanks for coming by!

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  3. So often I am guilty of exactly the same thing: choosing who is “worthy” of my prayers and compassion and who is not. There are too many scriptures to name where God turns our worthiness ideas upside down — a concept more commonly known as grace. Thank you for this thoughtful meditation on what it means to pray for those who hurt you. And thanks for sharing with us at Unforced Rhythms.

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    • Kelli, thanks for dropping by today. We too often think the worthiness of others is so far below us as to negate our need to engage in prayer, compassion or outreach. Yet God speaks to us on a almost unending list of times when we should do just those things despite the condition of the other person(s). Thanks for this great reminder and for hosting Unforced Rhythms.

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    • Dolly, so glad to see you today. And yes it is so hard to pray for those whom we believe have committed a wrong. Apart from His grace and power, we are truly nothing and couldn’t make this kind of petition to Him. Appreciate your words so much.

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  4. Hello there! We are neighbors today over at Jennifer’s place… I am from the PNW and recall clearly this tragedy last week. In fact, I was meeting with a new group of ladies that morning and there were no details as of yet but I was asked to pray. I prayed for the whole situation… every victim, the school and student body and staff… that the wounds both visible and invisible would not fester or scar… that darkness would not prevail. We prayed for the whole community in that small town… for justice, yes… but God’s – not ours. We prayed for the shooter and his family… but I am quick to admit that I added them last and quite possibly because we were lacking details. This post reminds me that those details did not go unnoticed by God and He would have us pray for ALL involved… especially our ‘enemies’! Thank you!

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    • Karrilee, I’m so grateful for your visit, someone who was also near this tragedy in locale. How fortunate to be with a group of praying women who likely left no stone unturned among their number and, as you state so beautifully, “those details did not go unnoticed by God.” Looking forward to getting to know you better.

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  5. It is hard to immediately think of the “enemy” as the one we want to love. But when we do finally remember, we can thank God for the thought and equipping to do it. Without him, I’d never even think about it at all. And I’d sure never be able to do it! Thanks, Sherrey.

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    • Hi, Lisa, and welcome! The word “enemy” conjures up the opposite of what we are willing to pray for but when nudged by the God we love and who loves us we know immediately we can do it. Your last two sentences say it all. Thanks for dropping in!

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  6. Live generously. If we could truly do that, we could make such a difference! I always feel sorry for the perpetrator’s family, as they experience a loss too. The whole situation makes me sad. Not hopeless at least, but sad.

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    • Sarah, so glad to have you visiting here, and I hope you’ll come by again. Living generously isn’t always easy but it is what He requires of us. I like your statement, “Not hopeless at least, but sad.” Sums up situations like this so well.

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