A good friend recently told me she and her daughter pray in the car on their way to whatever they’re doing that day. Inspired to follow their example, my children and I have been praying during the last few minutes of our commute to school, asking God for a good day, listening ears, and patient hearts.
I also ask God to put a hedge of protection around our girls, figuring it’s a way to pray for their safety without scaring them about terrible things that could happen, but very likely won’t.
Today, I find myself thinking about parents in Uvalde, Texas. What are they praying this morning, one day after 19 children and two teachers were killed in one of the deadliest school shootings in history?
I was a senior in high school when student gunmen killed 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School, and not yet a parent when 20 young children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This morning, Uvalde feels closer and scarier because I dropped my own children off at school, praying even more fervently than yesterday for their protection today.
In the hours after the shooting, social media overflowed with calls for action. Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, many of the posts emphasized. Indeed, action seems warranted now. It is unthinkable that children can be gunned down in their desks at school. It is almost as unfathomable that in almost 25 years since Columbine, it’s still happening, and more frequently.
But this morning, the news reports of grieving parents and another community devastated by senseless violence has paralyzed me. What action could possibly fix this? Already the noise of voices on all sides of the issues are crowding out any feasible solution.
Then in the din, a prayer: Be near, O God.
I saw those words in a few of the posts. It’s a prayer that feels especially prescient after shootings in Buffalo and Orange County, and now Uvalde. Be near, O God. Heal. Transform. Move us. Perhaps in this moment our lament, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can fuel our action.
Be near, and compel us to educate ourselves on the issues. Be near, and soften our hearts toward those who are hurting or those with different experiences than ours. Inspire conversation. Move us to action. Remind us to pray. Here. In Texas. In New York and California. Be near, O God.