We say this a lot, don’t we.
I was attending a pastor’s conference Monday evening and didn’t hear any news reports until early Tuesday morning. Before I heard any of those, I’d checked Facebook and saw many of my ‘friends’ saying things like, ‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Oklahoma’, or ‘Pray for the people of Moore, OK.’ Then, when I checked my news sites and discovered what had happened on Monday I understood…in part.
When tragedies like this strike, I find it amazing how often people will use phrases similar to the above to express their sentiments about the devastation. Yet I’m left wondering: ‘Just what are we supposed to be praying for? How should I pray for these people, families, children?’ And ‘What does it mean to have my thoughts go out to them?’ I realize the solidarity it’s trying to elicit, somehow mystically helping those who have suffered greatly to know they are not alone in this.
But again I’ll ask, ‘What thoughts are we sending their way?’
How about some like this:
‘O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord––how long?’
Or perhaps these thoughts should ‘go out to them’:
‘Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’
Another thought ‘going their way’:
‘How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?’
One final ‘prayer’ for them:
‘Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!’
In other words, ‘God, stop looking down upon me right now! If you don’t, I’ll die!’
Psalms of lament. We have so much to learn about them and from them. We have so much further to go in our whole Christian lives in order to comprehend why these are some of the best thoughts that can ‘go out to those in times of trial.’
So, my prayers and thoughts are going out. I will lament with them. I will cry out with them. I will try to sense some heartache with them. Pray for them with me.