She said to pray for a student who was standing near us. To be clear, she asked all the students in the building to nod so that people near them would know they were a middle school or high school student.
Since I’ve reached the age where everyone under 30 looks like they could still be in high school, this was a smart thing to do. It would be awkward to start praying for someone’s high school career and find out they graduated in 2012. But, for me, it was also unnecessary, because I was standing next to my middle school aged son, with his two sisters just beyond him.
She directed us to pray for these students in light of what recently happened in Parkland, Florida. No problem! I pray for my three, and several others, every single day. It’s not just guns I fear. It’s temptations of every variety, the peer pressure that comes from every side, the stress of trying to perform well academically and socially, and on and on and on. It’s also that they would stay safe from every stupid impulse that pops its way into their still-developing brains, both the brains of my kids and the ones around them.
It didn’t take long for my prayers to form. Lord, may my children never know the fear that is running for your life while some twisted individual wields a gun, deciding to kill whomever may have hurt their feelings and as many others as possible.
It struck me mid-prayer that I was not praying a simple prayer. These school shootings, happening regularly for at least 20 years now, are random and always end with a few commonalities. Most people do not see them coming. They happen in often idyllic towns where many people knew the perpetrator. And they always open up the gun debate.
It struck me mid-prayer that I was not praying against gun laws. If we can ignore the media circus that is what we call our news cycles and the politicians who use them, I would like to point out a simple truth. While people on either side of the gun debate continue to think exactly as they always have, real people mourn real loss.
It struck me that I was not praying about anything small. I was praying against sin nature. We can talk about the pros and cons of gun laws, the ins and outs of mental illness and the would’ve, should’ve, could’ve of every single disaster. But we will be wasting our breath.
It struck me that, even as I prayed for my children’s safety and against the sinful nature of anyone who might chance to cross their path, I also needed to pray for the sinful nature that battled within myself and my children.
This, sadly, is where our wheels will continue to spin, never understanding that we are not simply praying for our own loved ones and against anyone else who might pose a threat. Or, as someone once wrote, ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood.’
So yes, prayer is needed. But make sure you know what you’re praying for. And keep in mind which enemy you’re praying against.