Praying Angry

I got angry in church this Sunday while praying the pastoral prayer.

I wrote a new one for this Sunday, addressing the Aurora shootings. And, to be honest, I felt a little guilty taking such significant note of this violence in a suburban Chicago congregation when, truth be told, we barely care that over 250 people have been killed by guns in Chicago in the last 6 months.

The prayer was not my best work. But it was decent.

Now, this may be a surprise (a little insight into the “sausage making” for those who are not church professionals) but even as we are leading worship, some of us are in fact thinking about and evaluating how things are going. I know: it’s perhaps not particularly worshipful. But I don’t beat myself up too much. I figure it’s one of the hazards of the profession.

So, as I read this prayer, I found myself thinking that the prayer was striking the right note, doing the job it was meant to do. And I thought,  ”Huh. I also wrote it in a general enough style that I could use it again.”

And that’s when I had to check myself, and not let the rising anger get me.

Because I realized how horrible it was, to so casually think that I will, in all likelihood, be able to use this prayer again.

How is it acceptable to us that weapon meant to kill human being are so easy to access? How is it that structures we have in place for mental health care are so shoddy? I don’t have the solution. But I wish we were even talking seriously as a society about the solution.

And, yes, we can’t start talking about the solution immediately after something like this happens. But we’re in the middle of a presidential campaign. By the middle of this week, I think both candidates ought to have some serious proposals about the issue. Maybe some of our other politicians should start working on this, too.

Maybe the rest of us need to care enough to do something (this convicts me: I know I’ll be much less angry in a few days myself…)

But it’s really simple: the sort of thing that happened in Aurora is not OK. Neither is the sort of thing that happens on the streets of a city like Chicago nearly every day.

And it’s not OK that this keeps happening.

Creator God,

What a world you have made…
We are surrounded and astounded by your works all around us:
Sun and sky, rain and thunder,  mountains and rivers and plains.
Your beauty all around us, even in the faces and hands of other human beings.
You have loved us and blessed us with such gifts and abilities. And we can only sit back in wonder when you call us your children.

Yet as a parent, we know your heart aches for us. This world is such a messy place, o God. The same faces you made beautiful are scarred by sadness, the same hands you made for such blessing can hurt and kill. How long, O Lord, why do we go on hurting  each other? How long must we wait for peace? How long until we are comforted? How long until the world is made whole again? We ask out of our own pain and the pain of those we love: in sickness, in mourning, in broken relationships, in disappointment, in depression…

And we ask for those we do not know. We pray today for all whose lives are upended by violence. For families and friends grieving deaths in Colorado. And for hundreds of families closer to home, in our own big city, whose dear ones are gone because of violence.

We pray for every person who spirals into such dark loneliness, into such deep places of depression and rage, and mental illness, that violence makes any sense to them. And we pray, too, for the people who love them, who care for them, and struggle to keep them healthy and safe.

And we pray for ourselves. Shine a light into our hearts, so that we might see how, ever so slightly, we might change ourselves, and move our society from a culture of violence a culture that glorifies your your peace, peace that passes all understanding.

Make us whole, O Creator God. Remake us into the beauty you intended. Make us bearers of good news, and doers of good works; change the world through us.

This seems so much to ask. But we know you are able, through the power of Jesus. The one who taught us to pray boldly saying,

Our Father….