Last week, after a mentally deranged gunman killed 26 people in a church in Texas, Paul Ryan, the Catholic Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, sent out a tweet that said, “Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.” Several other individuals sent tweets that also said that their thoughts and prayers were with the families of the victims.
After the initial round of tweets, a firestorm erupted on social media. Several politicians and celebrities blasted Speaker Ryan and the other individuals by stating that thoughts and prayers would not accomplish anything, and that only concrete action, such as gun control, would stop the shootings.
One of Speaker Ryan’s colleagues, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, tweeted, “They were praying when it happened. They don’t need our prayers. They need us to address gun violence crisis and pass sensible regulation.”
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, tweeted. “If thoughts and prayers alone prevented gun violence, we wouldn’t be shot in places of worship. God calls on us to ACT.”
In her 2003 book, Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Celebration of Black Prayer, Coretta Scott King, the wife of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote about what happened one evening after her husband was awakened by a “threatening and abusive phone call.”
She wrote that after her husband hung up the phone, he “bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: ‘Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’”
Mrs. King wrote that after her husband stood up, “he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.” He later told her, “At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.’”
Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man of faith who knew the power of prayer. Those of us who grew up in devout Catholic homes had an opportunity to experience the power of prayer in our lives. But there are many people who did not have that opportunity and have never experienced the power of prayer and faith in God.
It is understandable that people who lack faith in God would believe that prayer is a waste of time. I feel sorry for them because most of them didn’t grow up in the type of environment that I grew up in.
Shannon Watts acts as though the only reason to offer up prayers is so that additional gun control laws can be passed. She apparently doesn’t see any value in praying for the family members and friends of the victims. She doesn’t know that prayers are needed so that the victims’ family members and friends will be given the grace, strength, and courage to deal with their grief and the challenges that lie ahead for them.
As Catholics, we know that there are generally five types of prayer:
I have a question for the people who think that prayers are worthless in situations when an innocent person has been murdered by the violent act of another person. If they were living at the time of the crucifixion of the Son of God, what would they have said to His mother if they ran into her after she witnessed His brutal death?
Would they tell her that she needs to get busy working on crucifixion control?
What would have helped the Blessed Mother the most in her moment of grief?
I know what I would have said to her: “I’m really sorry for the loss of your Divine Son. I will pray for you and your family. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Speaking of the Mother of God, we can assume that she prayed throughout the entire time that she witnessed her Son being tortured. What do you think she was praying for? Did she pray that He would be spared? Her will was perfectly aligned with the will of her Father in Heaven, so there is a strong likelihood that she knew that her Divine Son was destined to die on the cross.
So what did she pray for during the hours leading up to His death? I believe that among other things, she prayed that her Son would be comforted during His final hours on Earth. Her prayers were answered when she was allowed to approach Him while He was carrying His cross.
Her prayers were again answered when (1) her cousin Veronica courageously defied the orders of the soldiers and rushed over to Jesus to wipe His bloody face with her veil, (2) He was allowed to comfort a group of women who were weeping because of what He was going through, (3) the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to help Him carry His cross, (4) the “good thief” who was crucified next to Him courageously spoke up on His behalf when the other thief verbally attacked Him; and (5) She, along with the apostle, John, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Cleopas, where allowed to be present at the foot of the cross to offer their support and prayers.
You and I should pray for people who do not believe that there is any need for prayer.