My phone chimed. It was a text from my wife saying “There’s a school shooting in South Florida”.
I started getting texts and messages from friends and family back in our home state of Missouri asking if Parkland was close to us in Gainesville. Everyone checking in to make sure that our kids were safe.
I thought about that a lot. The panic of not knowing if your kids are safe. I have no idea how I would respond. From the safety of my desk at Shift Church I can speculate anything but I have no clue how I would be if thrown into that hell.
As the news rolled in through the night and the victim count kept growing I saw #pray4parkland on images, tweets and posts. Then came the inevitable push back.
“Stop praying and do something!”
“Your prayers aren’t helping.”
“Since when did prayers stop bullets?”
I get it. I really do.
It seems like every time we face another tragedy like this prayer is useless. What good is it if it keeps happening? My response is DON’T STOP PRAYING BUT DON’T STOP THERE!
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you need to understand that prayer works. We see over and over and over and over God responding to the cry of his people all throughout scripture.
We are even commanded to do so in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
Understand that our words move the heart of God. It’s not that he won’t move if we don’t pray but it’s clear that our cries have an effect on our Father.
One of the greatest examples we have is the story of Moses’s encounter with God. Moses is out tending his sheep when God shows up in the form of a burning bush. God does this in response to the cries of his people.
The Israelites’ cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. Exodus 3:9
The problem is when we believe that if we’ve prayed our role is over.
Prayer is just the starting point.
Prayer is not the ending point.
We have a daughter in high school. Our daughter knows people who have friends at Parkland. I also coach the Ft. Clarke Middle School softball team. I had to speak to our team Wednesday night about it.
So what do we do? We can’t change legislation but we can change our homes and neighborhoods. I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t contact our local representatives (we should) but they clearly aren’t going to solve the problem.
But we can!
Jesus was asked a question by a religious leader what the greatest commandments were. Jesus answered like this:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
If you’re a parent LOVE your kids. Don’t let them leave the house without them knowing you love them. Don’t let your teenager sit for hours alone in their rooms. Rock out in the car with them. Roll down your windows and crank the radio. Have fun. Engage them around the dinner table. If you’re not having dinner together START! Immediately. Don’t wait. Do it today. Pray with them. Share things you’ve seen in scripture with them. Give them spaces to question and doubt. Allow them to question faith and God.
Ask them how their day was. Show them you care. You have to fight for their hearts. Because if you don’t someone will. Be intentional with your parenting.
And if you don’t see the fruit right this second it doesn’t mean it’s not there. DON’T GIVE UP!
And for families without kids and for those with look around! There are kids in your sphere of influence that need you to love them. Even if you’re loving your kids well they need other adults pouring into them as well.
So even if you don’t have kids you have a major role to play in my kids’ lives. Love them. Engage them. Ask them questions knowing that they may say things to you that they won’t say to me.
We have a neighbor that my kids love. And she loves them. She’s an older single woman without kids in the home but man she loves well. Every time my son sees her outside he runs out to give her a hug and talk to her. He’ll go on walks with her while she’s walking her dogs. And do you know why he loves her so much?
It’s because she loves him. And she shows it by spending time with him when she doesn’t have to. She lets him walk her dogs with her. She asks about school. She brings little gifts for them on Christmas. She invests in them…regularly. 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
If something is going on in my children’s lives that we don’t see, our neighbor will.
And that’s your role for someone right now. All you have to do is be aware.
If you’re not sure how to talk to your children or the children placed in your care let me suggest this article by Carey Nieuwhof How to Talk to your Kids about Tragedy: http://theparentcue.org/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-tragedy/
Jesus follower…I get the frustration. I really do. Stop just praying and do something about it. But don’t give up on God!
DON’T STOP PRAYING JUST DON’T STOP THERE.