Every news publication posts pictures daily that capture the horror (and beauty) of the human experience in this world. The temptation for me is to scroll through these pictures for information alone—to know what is happening in the world, to see it with my own eyes. But I’ve started to wonder what good it is to know these things. Is it so I can speak intelligently at dinner parties or with colleagues at work? So I can debate what governments should and shouldn’t be doing? So I can feel sadness or compassion or anger? So I will grow in fear about the evil and brokenness I see? Of course, some pictures move me to action—to protest, spend my money differently, donate to a particular organization that is doing good. There is only so much I can do, though, and I am inclined to withdraw instead and ignore the world.
Withdrawing from the world is not Jesus’ invitation to those who follow him. We are to engage the world, be light, offer hope, and pray—without ceasing, on all occasions, with all types of requests. What good is it to be inundated with pictures of the pain and horror in the world? To pray. To pray for the men and women and children who bear God’s image and who are loved deeply not only by God, but also by mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, siblings, husbands and wives, and friends.
We can pray without pictures. But with pictures, something changes. The Syrian refugees are not just a mass of people without names. In pictures, we see their faces and their eyes. Peace in the Middle East is not something that would be nice one day so we can stop hearing about it on the news. In pictures, we can see the urgency because of the faces terrorized by constant threat and the lack of stability and freedom. Black men killed by gunshots are not statistics. In pictures, we see they are bodies and souls made in God’s image, carefully crafted, formed for a purpose. The victims of natural disasters are not just numbers. In pictures, we can see their faces, their eyes, their hands, their feet. Our political candidates are not just platforms, ideas, and caricatures. They are people, made in God’s image, loved deeply. Concepts, numbers, and statistics are easy to ignore. Faces and eyes are not.
Here’s a way I’ve been praying for the world.
Father in heaven, I hold every face and soul in this picture in the light of your love and grace and hope. I pray for the mother and son in the foreground. May they feel your presence and love today. Have mercy on them. I pray for all the families and souls that are not shown in this picture, but who are experiencing something similar. May your kingdom break through in the midst of such pain, displacement, and violence. Guide the hearts and minds of government leaders who are making decisions about the broken systems that stand behind what is happening in this picture. May your peace be known.
Lord, it’s hard to know what to say. There is so much pain represented in this picture. I pray for Laquan McDonald’s family who are mourning the loss of their son, brother, cousin, nephew. Bring them your peace and comfort. Have mercy on them. I hold them in the light of your presence and love. I pray for Jason Van Dyke. Have mercy on him. Forgive him. In your grace, illuminate and heal whatever caused him to act the way he did. I pray for his family and all they are experiencing as a result of his actions. May your kingdom break through in the midst of the pain, the broken systems, the racism and hatred that is triggered or lies under the surface. Guide the hearts and minds of government and community leaders who are making decisions related to this incident and the systems that allow these shootings to keep happening. May your peace be known.
Father, I pray for this woman and this man, made in your very image, and so loved by you that you gave your one and only Son to give them eternal life. I hold them in the light of your presence and love. May you guide their thoughts and words. I pray for every political candidate in the upcoming 2016 elections. May your kingdom break through in the midst of the divisive, vitriolic atmosphere that characterizes politics in our country. Let me be an example of love and kindness so that all will know I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.