prayer for peace

To the Families in Uvalde: I Hope the Sea Splits for You

There are a lot of important conversations happening in the wake of the absolutely monstrous tragedy that took place at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

The weight of the lives lost—the where and how—is unbearable, and the why remains so far beyond understanding, I have trouble even asking the question out loud.

We all want to fix it, to say something that will take the events of that day back, or, at the very least, ensure that something like this will never and could never happen again.

I understand that want and that need, and I will continue to listen and contribute to the conversations and elections that hopefully will make that difference.

But when I was reflecting on what happened in Texas. When I thought of the families and the children and the teachers. As I bared a fraction of the pain that they are carrying right now, I kept having one image come to mind: The ocean.

I kept imagining being in the middle of the ocean, with no idea where to go or how to stay afloat, all while the waves raged and crashed. That’s how I imagine grief like this—like losing your child to senseless violence, like seeing an unspeakable tragedy unfold in your backyard—must feel. Like unendurable chaos. Like drowning.

While many of us will read about this tragedy online, waiting for the chance to vote or advocate or donate to causes or laws that aim to prevent this from ever happening again, there are people and families that will continue to feel like they are actively drowning. Amongst all of the arguments and social media posts and anger and hatred and blame and desperation, these people will still be feeling the full weight of this grief, holding on for dear life.

And so I’m thinking about them today—thinking about you.

I know that “thoughts and prayers” is practically a cliché at this point. So I want to be clear that when I say I’m thinking about you and that I’m praying for you, it’s not vague and it’s not impersonal.

I am hopeful that I can somehow pray to exactly where you are—right there in the water.

There is a story in the bible when Moses, who is freeing slaves from Egypt, parts the Red Sea so that they can get across. It is perhaps one of the most well-known bible stories, and one that shook me as a kid. I liked to imagine walls of fish higher than the Israelites heads, swimming around like nothing was out of the ordinary, like the sea hadn’t just split in half and humans were walking through it.

And while this notion of “splitting the sea” only literally happened once, the metaphorical experience is referenced a lot in the community of faith.

In the song “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music, there is the lyric: “you split the sea so I could walk right through it.” And in the song “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship, there is one that says: “You turn seas into highways.”

And so my prayer is that through the support of your family, your friends, your community, our country, and the world, you will find something to grab onto, something to help keep you afloat as you mourn. I pray that you would not focus on the why—for nothing, no answer, no reason will take this pain away or make it make sense—but rather on the who. Who you lost. Who they were and how not just their death but their life changed the world.

I pray that in time the sea will split for you. That these raging waters will turn into solid ground. That you will find a path—not out, not away, but through. Right through the center, between the high walls of fish. And I pray that you’ll find freedom on the other side. Not from the memory of those you’ve lost, but from the darkness that would gladly hold you captive forever. I pray there’s a sunrise, and every color imaginable, I pray there is good where evil thought there could be none, and I pray there is hope when it once seemed impossible.

I am thinking of you, and I am praying for you. May faith find you, right there in the water.  

Pray for One Person in Ukraine

Yesterday, a man at my church prayed for the people of Ukraine.

In the past few days, we have all watched the chaos and tragedy caused by the attack ordered by Vladimir Putin unfold. And while it has been heartbreaking to watch, it has also been inspiring to see the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people as they fight to protect their country and maintain their freedom.

I have seen a lot of prayers and cries of support go out to Ukraine, but this one stood out to me. This prayer was not general, it was not surface level, and it was not sweeping. I don’t say this to criticize any other prayers or support, as the world needs all of them right now, but this one acted as a bit of a wakeup call to me.

In his prayer, he asked us to identify with the people of Ukraine. Not just think of them, not just pray for them, not just hope for their peace and safety. He asked us to remember that they are people just like us. They are not just a far away country or a story on the news. They are a community of individuals. They are people. Just like us.

As I listened to him pray, I imagined what it would be like for that war to be around me. To feel the terror of my country, my city, being under attack and not knowing what the future holds. I imagined what it would be like to watch my friends and family lay down their lives to protect their freedom, my freedom, and I imagined what I would do if the time came when I had to take up a weapon and do the same.

I imagined what it might feel like to listen to the world cry out in prayer and support for my country, my people, and my safety. Would it feel like they were really praying for me? Would they know I was there, scared, my world as I knew it darkening and cracking? Would they understand the consequences this war would have on the rest of my life—on the rest of the world, the rest of the country, the rest of history, yes, but also me, my life, and so many more individual lives.

The expanse of the universe makes it so easy to feel small. The size of continents, countries, cities, heck, even counties or neighborhoods make it easy to feel small. In Southern California, as I sit on the freeway in traffic, to so many people I am just another car. But to me, I am always an individual. I am always a person with thoughts and feelings that is living a life, having good days and bad days. I am one person. But I am a person. And in the Ukraine, amongst all the numbers, statistics and generalized news reports, there are millions of people. One person alongside another, fighting for their lives. Wanting peace to find their country again. Wanting their families to be safe and their future to be hopeful.

So when you pray for Ukraine, when you research ways you can support the people in the midst of their darkest days, remember they are a population made up of individuals, of stories, lives and hearts. Remember that those people are just like you and me, and that in a different world, they might be praying for us. For you. For me.

Think of what it would feel like to know that someone was praying for you. To identify with you, to understand the pain and trauma that you are feeling in a time like this, to let you know that you are seen, that you are cared for, and that peace and protection is being asked over you. There are so many people to pray for right now, but let’s not do so lazily or generally. Don’t be vague, be specific. Ignite hope, provide strength, and cast love on each and every person. Young and old and everything in between.

Pray for one person. Pray for every person.

A Little Prayer for You (And Me)

Praying has never been my strong suit.

Ever since I was little I have been taught the value, importance, and power in praying, but I have never been a “good” (eloquent, confident, etc.) prayer, especially out loud or in front of other people.

But lately I have been feeling like I want to pray, for those who have faith, for those who don’t, for those who have a different faith or any degree of spirituality, anyone and everyone who might be reading this, or even those who aren’t.

Ironically, after starting this post about a week ago and then getting too nervous to post it, the pastor of my church gave a sermon all about praying. I was caught off guard listening to him, noting how some points he made seemed to directly address the fears I was having, but I was also encouraged to take a step out of my comfort zone, which brings me here today. So, if you, or anyone you know might need prayer, this is for you, and for me, and for all of us trying to find our way through this trying time.

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Dear God,

I know these last few months have been difficult for most of us, some of us more than others. And I know that I am among so many when I say that I am not just scared of what is happening now, but what could happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next—all the days ahead of us that seem so scary and unknown. There is still so much we have to learn, so far we have to go until we can regain a sense of normalcy, and the imposed limitations have begun to feel suffocating. And so, I pray that we can find a sense of peace. A calmness that doesn’t blind us or numb us to the challenges ahead, but keeps us encouraged to work through them and help one another along the way.

I pray for a peace that abides on the frontlines, bringing confidence and endurance to our nurses, doctors, and frontline workers, helping them find strength and encouragement in their work.

I pray for a peace that reaches those struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, or any number of mental health struggles that may be exacerbated by this pandemic and its side effects.

I pray for a peace that can overshadow the panic and fears associated with losing a job or being unable to do one’s job efficiently, and can provide courage to those who need to ask for help.

I pray for a peace that can heal the hearts of those who have lost a loved one or who don’t get to see their loved ones for fear of putting them at risk.

I pray for a peace that can keep us united, even as we step further into the unknown. And I pray that we can find compassion and strength alongside each other rather than at odds with one another.

I pray for a peace that can illuminate good moments of mundane days. Whether it be a phone call, a successful pastry bake in the kitchen, a sunset, a smile, or a cool breeze.

I pray for a peace that can give us each a long, deep breath, and encourage us to keep going, along with a confidence that there is not only goodness to be found up ahead, but even right here, where we are.

Amen.