A Prayer for Charleston (and us)

At last night’s worship night we used Psalm 23 as our guide, which shows us the seasons of life. Our lives are secure and yet endangered as God leads us through dark valleys (23:4). What happened in Charleston, SC is a dark valley for many of us. We prayed in the spirit of the psalms to be able to bring this threat, this dark valley to God. Perhaps this prayer can help you give expression to how to respond to what has happened.

Our Father, as we see the evil committed Wednesday night in Charleston in the Emmanuel AME Church, we take our example from the Psalms, and we lament. Confronted with this violence, this hatred, this enemy of Jesus and his cross, we lament and mourn. We mourn for these nine men and women murdered: Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons, Depayne Middleton Doctor. We mourn how their hospitality was turned to evil. As fellow members in your body, we mourn with and for their family and friends. We mourn the racist hatred that drove the murderer. We mourn for the ways we are complicit in hatred, racism, and violence. And we thank you that at the cross there is space for tears, for sin, for anger, and for doubts.

We pray for those whose lives are disfigured by this crime. We pray for families broken apart. We pray for a church without its pastor, so many of its members taken away. And yet we rejoice for the Christian witness today of these family members who are full of pain and yet forgive Dylann Roof. With them we ask you to have mercy on him and turn him to repentance and faith.

And Lord God, give us the grace to point the finger at ourselves. We know there is evil in our hearts. Turn us away from hatred, from disdain for your image-bearers, from racial prejudice, from the easy presumption of privilege, from all the ways that we fail to love others as ourselves. Turn us to the cross where we all stand together in need of forgiveness. On our dark road, make our feet to stand. Give us the grace of the Lord Jesus to deny ourselves and love others sacrificially. Hold us in your hand and do not let us fall. Renew our vision that your holy will abides, that what you ordain, though dark and tragic, is indeed right.

And in this moment of silence, add your own prayers of confession and ask God for his grace.

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