“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth, as it is in heaven….”
Sunday was an awful day for our
friends in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six
lives were taken by gun violence. Not only did the
wrongdoer of this tragedy inflict pain, grief,
sadness, and anger on the families, community, and
nation, this person also compromised the safety of a
church. When we aren’t safe in our places of
worship—the space we set aside as “sanctuary”—where
are we safe?
Emerging out of this incident, which
is yet another mass-casualty shooting in a matter of
months, is a cultural debate about “thoughts and
prayers” being our response toward all those
affected by gun violence. As a pastor, I’d like to
offer up my thoughts about this in an honest,
First, we must pray. We must hold
those who have lost their lives before the light
God, asking God to welcome them in glory. We must
pray for those who now enter into a dark season of
sorrow, praying God will comfort them in their
grief. Our prayers may become a strong tower of
hope. And yes (even though we may not like this), we
must pray for Devin Kelley, the child of God who
used guns to take the lives of twenty-six saints. My
prayer for Devin and his family is that God’s love
may break through hardened hearts and darken minds
and that God will have mercy on him.
Hear us, O God of compassion,
surround those who have been shaken by tragedy
with a sense of your present love,
and hold them in faith.
Perhaps an answer to this complicated
question is found at the beginning of the Lord’s
Prayer. On Sunday we began a three-week series
addressing the question, “What exactly are we
praying when we pray the ‘Our Father’?” In light of
Sunday’s tragedy, there is a new question we can add
to our consideration: What does the Lord’s Prayer
have to do with the Christian response to gun
There are many prayers to be prayed,
but to pray as Jesus taught is a peculiar kind of
activity based on the life, death, and resurrection
of Jesus. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we boldly
declare that God has not abandoned the world to its
own devices but is present among a people on the
move—a people moving from our old ways of doing
things… we, ordinary people, who have been given the
extraordinary authority to be part of the divine,
peaceful transition from the evil realm to God’s
Did you catch that? The Lord’s Prayer
is an invitation to join in on the world’s
transformation by being Jesus’s followers. To follow
Jesus means not only believing a particular doctrine
but also incarnating the love that has saved us.
When we pray this prayer, we bend our lives, and our
wants towards God’s life and what God wants.
We live as we pray. Prayer then leads
to action. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come
and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in
heaven and as we allow this prayer to seep into the
crevices of our hearts, we become that for which we
yearn. We are able to live hopefully in a
fallen-yet-being-made-new world because of the One
who has taught us to pray “this way.” Pray for God’s
kingdom to come, yes; but also live and organize our
lives in such a way they usher in God’s peace.
As we pray, “Your will be done,” we
beg God not for what we want but to have our lives
caught up in that which is larger than our lives; we
are asking to be caught up in what God is doing. And
if God is who we say God is, then God is making this
world, inviting us to join God, and working so that
violence of any kind is ended. In the Lord’s Prayer,
we pray that the peace in heaven is experienced here
If this seems strange, too
idealistic, or too impractical, then I say, “good”…
because it is. Remember, Jesus instructed the Lord’s
Prayer to be prayed aloud, as a public gesture.
Thus, in praying the Lord’s Prayer and in the living
this prayer, God’s people will appear strange. Some
of us might even be called fools and dreamers.
When we say, our thoughts and prayers
are with these people, what are we really saying?
If we allow the Lord’s Prayer to
shape our faith, we know how our thoughts and
prayers will lead to actions and participation in
bringing about justice and peace with God’s help.
Prayer isn’t passive.
Prayer is when we bend our hearts, hands, and
resources to God’s reign on earth as it is in
What do you say, church? Let us
'hallow' God's name and our lives by being Christ to
the world, to those grieving, and to one another.
[Adam Quine, pastor of
First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln.]