This week, a tornado ripped through Oklahoma, splintering hearts and homes. I've never experienced a large-scale tragedy in my life. The closest I've come is losing my dad, but that was a personal tragedy, not a major catastrophe.
I doubt I'll ever know the unimaginable pain, both physical and emotional, that the victims are experiencing. All I know is what I've seen on television and the Internet. There is no way for me to fully understand how it felt to be in the midst of that storm...to hear the rumble...to take shelter against the sheer force of the wind...to worry about missing loved ones.
I can't know.
All I can do is pray.
Heartfelt prayer in tragedy
When I hear news of a tragedy, my first reaction is to pray. I usually offer up a quick request for comfort or protection. God hears and answers my simple pleas.
But those quick prayers don't take much thought or emotion on my part. They may be all I can manage at times, but I don't want to be content with staying unconnected to the sufferings of others. I want my heart to be heavy with the needs of people who are hurt, and sad, and hopeless.
I can't know what it's like to go through something so grim and heartbreaking, but I can try to relate. I can step out of my generic one-line prayers and into the shoes of the hurting. I can let my imagination inform my heart.
When I consider troubling events, such as the recent tornado, and how to pray for them, I like to put myself in the place of different characters in the narrative. I paint a picture in my mind of what it must be like, the inevitable trials and struggles that are being faced.
I pray for the mommy who doesn't know where she'll find a bottle for her baby....or how she'll ever get her toddler to sleep without his favorite blankie....or if her preschooler will stop whining for a snack that she can't give...or if her elementary child is ever going to let her leave the room without going into a panic.
I pray for the rescue workers who are stretched to the limits of exhaustion....and are searching for hope among the rubble....and are finding nothing but destruction....and have seen horrors they'll never be able to forget.
I pray for the wife who has to tell her little ones that Daddy is gone....and wonders how she'll care for them all by herself....and doesn't know who she's supposed to call for help....and just wants to go home to a safe place that no longer exists.
I pray for the parents who are sitting beside hospital beds....and those who are preparing for funerals....and the ones who don't know how they will rebuild when the only thing that matters is gone. Forever.
God doesn't need me to remind Him of the specific needs.
He already knows each and every emptiness and loss, but God uses my imagination to drive me to my knees. He uses these thoughts to break my heart for the hurting, to help me sympathize with the suffering, to bring me to tears over pain that is not my own.
What hurts or needs can you imagine? Please share so we can join together in lifting them up before the throne of grace.
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