The headlines didn’t sink in right away. I thought here we go again and went about my day. As the evening progressed, chatter regarding the incident grew and it was only then that I began to understand the gravity of the situation. I finally pulled up CNN and read for myself what had occurred in Manchester.
Even after I fully comprehended the devastation of the bombing, I still felt hollow. The only word I could think of was more. More death and more hate. More tragedies my heart cannot bear to contain.
At times I am so overwrought with despair at the ceaseless death and destruction swallowing our world that I don’t allow the painful realities to sink in. An embarrassing and selfish admission, yet true. If I did, I fear I’d never be happy again. So I force myself to forget. I sometimes forget that my aunt passed away a few months ago or that my best friend’s dad has cancer. I forget that suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents, that there are terrorists who kill innocent people, and that human trafficking is a $32 billion per year industry.
I’ve seen the tweets of people proclaiming solidarity, the thinking of Manchester statuses on social media, the pictures and stories remembering those who perished, but what I’ve come across most are those who claim to be praying for Manchester.
It all appears very hopeful on the surface. It makes us each feel good inside to step out of our own lives to offer condolences and prayers to those affected by this horrific event.
But are we really praying?
I lost my brother almost three years ago. I still remember all the people who came to my parent’s house to console us. I’m sorry they all said. Which I’ve no doubt they were, but those two words peeved me to no end. What were they sorry for, they hadn’t taken his life. Moreover, their apologies could not bring him back. What irked me most was that I felt they were saying sorry partly out of obligation. Because that’s what’s you’re supposed to say when someone dies.
My pain that day was too real to have been blanketed by social formalities.
The day following John’s funeral, my best friend’s family was throwing a 90th birthday party for her grandmother. In an effort to get back into the swing of normalcy, I went. I arrived before the party started to help out. I’ll never forget, the moment Cherise ( my best friend Ashley’s cousin) saw me, she immediately enveloped me in an embrace. To this day, every time I recall that moment, it brings tears to my eyes. No words, just an embrace, filled with strength, safety, empathy, reassurance that it would be okay, and love. It was one of the only times I felt understood regarding my brother’s death.
I wish with all my might that I could pass that embrace along to Manchester right now. But the truth is, I’m not as certain as Cherise was that everything is going to be okay. I feel powerless because I know that in the next few months, I’ll be reading the same headline about a different city.
To answer my own question, no, I’ve not been praying for Manchester.
Did I say a little two minute prayer asking God to provide peace to the families of those lost and that He would cover them with His love? Yes, of course I did. And indeed I meant it. But to think that that was enough is a shame. We need to be falling on our faces in prayer, begging in desperation for peace in our world. Saying one little obligatory prayer simply will not do.
Remember when King David’s son fell ill? He did not eat or bathe. He spent his nights on the ground pleading with God to heal his son.
That is the type of prayer we need to be submitting ourselves to. And I don’t mean literally (although, if you feel God leading you to fast, so be it), but we need to be tenacious in our prayers.
Part of the problem is that we don’t actually believe our prayers have power. Some of us aren’t even sure who we’re praying to. How then, can we be meaningful and confident in our prayers when we’ve no belief?
We’re in this religious limbo where everyone wants to be free and send their good energy out into the universe because they don’t want to be bogged down by the burden of religion. That’s another post entirely, but what’s interesting is that no one prays to the universe in times of tragedy.
There’s no hope in disbelief, and there’s no faith without hope. What then, is the point of our prayers?
That’s just it. They’re not prayers as much as they are empty words that temporarily make us feel better.
Guys, we have to wake up. We have to make decisions about what we believe. We have to have a spiritual foundation. Deep down, we know that we cannot take the evil out of this world on our own.
Because really, without God, what hope do we have to offer those affected by this horrific event?
I am sorry. I’m sorry that my prayer for you wasn’t fueled by complete faith. I’m sorry that I only prayed once. I apologize that I’m not sorry enough to do more. I’m sorry that I can’t possibly imagine what you must be going through. If I truly did, I’d still be praying now. I’m sorry that this world is filled with a despair so deep that hope, at times feels impossible. Please forgive me for my perfunctory handling of this devastation.
If you would allow me to try again, I would like to say most sincerely, with all my faith behind me, I am actually praying to God for you Manchester.
Stay strong in Him,