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A pastoral prayer after the Virginia Beach shootings

By Charles Qualls

The mass shooting in Virginia Beach at the municipal building this past Friday shook our community like few things can. The feeling was that we all wanted to support the families and individuals involved. But as worshippers living in the region, we also might want to seek God’s comfort and guidance. Following is a prayer I offered during Sunday’s service at our church.

Lord, hear our hearts today. For residents of our own Tidewater went to work on Friday, and some of them did not go back home that night. Every last one of them, made in your image and your children.

The hypothetical became real this weekend, as all too close by, the tragedy of a mass-shooting has touched our community. Twelve households were altered in the most horrific way, never to be the same. Attend to their deepest needs with a healing balm of your love, oh God.

We are not mere spectators of somebody else’s life this time, sitting in our easy chairs and mumbling into our TV sets that this is terrible. This one happened too close to home for that. We cannot ignore the proximity of this one. This happened in a city where we many of us regularly visit doctors, do business, shop, dine and entertain ourselves.

At least one whom we know in our community works there. Attend to his heart in his connection to these who were lost, and in his days now as a survivor of what could have been. Hear the horror of our day, and hear our concern. Moments like this do not make us feel lucky as much as they do small. Powerless.

Moments like this also make us feel grateful for the bravery and action of first-responders who served so skillfully. What they are called on to do ultimately exceeds the bounds of duty, and can only be understood as selflessness. We are especially thankful for them.

Help us also, as citizens in a day of such division, to find our very souls and voices. As each side talks past the other about related issues, awaken within us the notion that the issue is that we are tired of massive losses of life.

Help us to value all lives as much as we say we do some. Help us to be convicted that old have as much right to live as the very youngest. That those adults who chose to be in that building, or who were paid to be in that building, were somehow not less of a victim than anyone else whose life is cut short. Awaken within us a conviction to never take what happened in Virginia Beach as normal, and Lord you know that we teeter closer on the brink of doing just that than we care to admit.

Help us to be convicted that school children should be safe, worshippers should be safe, and yes that workers should be able to walk into their offices and feel that their job is their most pressing concern, and not their lives.

Awaken us, oh Lord. Awaken our thankfulness and awaken our care. Help us not only to feel grateful to be alive, but help us to BE alive in the most useful ways we can.

Hear our prayers, in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.