Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Prayer for the Tragedy in Arizona

Loving God, darkness has covered our nation, and thick darkness has descended upon our people. Tragedy has clouded out the light.

Shots rang out in Tuscan, Arizona. Some people were wounded by bullets. Others were murdered.

In this time of darkness may your resilient light shine forth.

May your light shine on the family and friends of Federal Justice John Roll. After the darkness of continual death threats against him, the actual murder of John Roll must be filling those who love him with a cloudy midnight of immense grief and righteous anger. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth.

May your light shine on the family and friends of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. After being attacked in the media and shown with crosshairs over her head on websites, Gabrielle Giffords was actually shot point blank in her head. This must confound her loved ones in ways we can only imagine. So, we do what we can, Loving God, and pray for your light to make its way in their lives – and in her recovery.

May your light shine on the family and friends of all of those who were wounded or murdered in this act of terrorism. This tragedy has sent ripples of grief and anger through all of these people, as they ask the questions anyone would ask. Why? Why her? Why him? Why a child? Why now? Why like this? Why? This is a moment where there is a “dark night of the soul” for many people. So, we pray that you hold them in your light. Please bless all those around them, not with platitudes, but with comforting words. And in the weeks and months ahead, bless them with a passion for seeking justice and building a more peaceful world.

May your light shine on all of us who are saddened and sickened by the news of this act of violence. We suffer from afar as we hear about this on our TVs, and read about it on our computers and in our newspapers. In our own work of processing this event, Holy God, bless us with enough hope to build a better world, enough grace to respect diversity, and enough frustration to reject acts and symbols of violence in our world.

May your light shine on the murderer, whose darkness overcame his light. Perhaps he has a long history of perverse decision making. Perhaps his family history was painful. Perhaps his social life was conflictual. Perhaps his mental health was compromised. Perhaps his community of support was of little support. Whatever darkness overtook this man, may there be a way for light to peak through into his life.

May your light shine on the friends and family of the murderer – who may be asking questions for which there are no easy answers. May their sadness, anger, guilt, and shame be accepted by those around them, as they process this situation. And someday, may they be able to see and know that light does shine in the darkness - and the darkness will not overcome it.

And may your light shine on the political pundits and shock jocks who fill the media with hatred, rage, and incivility. There’s no such thing as a lone gunman – and sometimes the rage on the airwaves is enough to tip the balance of an already imbalanced person. Yet the people who fill the airways with this kind of darkness need light, too. So, Loving God, through your light, may they see the damage that their words do to the civil discourse in our nation. And may their hearts be softened, their words be tempered, and their styles of engagement be changed, so that their positions in the media can be used in the service of fostering a more civil, gracious, and peaceful nation.

Even in the midst of this tragedy, may we hold onto the hope that your light will continue to shine forth in the darkness until we are able to boldly proclaim, with the author of Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for our light has come, and the glory of God has risen within us.” Amen.

This prayer is based on Isaiah 60:1-2.


  1. I'm a pastor in CHicago and I just wanted to thank you for this prayer. I am printing it and placing it in my bulletin tomorrow morning.

  2. Thank you, I used your words in The Prayers of the People in Sierra Vista, Arizona today. You blessed many.

  3. Amen and thank you for these words.

  4. Thank you for this deeply compassionate prayer.

    Circuit Rider
    The Beatitudes Society

  5. When (now U. S. Senator) Joe Manchin was running for office -- he in a TV ad took a high powered riffle and shot it at the Cap and Trade Poster. this sent shivers up my spine... Who was he implying that he was shooting?