This is a prayer my friend and pastoral associate Brent Johnson recently wrote in remembrance of 9/11.
As we reflect on that tragic day, in the face of such profound evil, such horrific destruction, such great sorrow, it’s so easy for us to ask, Where are you, God? When Jesus on the cross cried out in anguish, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”, he spoke on behalf of so many who find themselves at the brink of despair, in the face of death itself. And so we know you understand how we come to ask such a question. There are times so hard, situations so bleak that we feel forsaken, abandoned, forgotten by you.
Though we in this room tonight may not have been personally touched by death on that terrible day ten years ago, we have all felt the aftershocks of war, violence, terrorism, fear, economic hardship, and international instability that have resulted from the events of September 11, 2001. Those aftershocks have changed some of our lives in very significant ways.
But for so many of us, the effects have been in our hearts. We have grown distrustful of certain ethnicities, loveless towards people groups that you love dearly. For some of us, the seeds of sorrow that were sown on September 11 have grown into weeds of hatred that have gripped our hearts ever since. We confess to you our need for your love. You told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. Give us hearts that reflect your love, that emulate your gracious forgiveness.
Father, with your grace making up for where ours falls short, we speak forgiveness over the men who planned and executed the horrific events of that day. The enemy used them to steal, kill and destroy. And he stole, killed and destroyed many of their own lives through dark deception as well as those who died with them in the planes or in the buildings that were destroyed. If we have harbored unforgiveness in our hearts, we confess that to you and ask for your forgiveness, and ask also for the grace to forgive them. We surrender our right to vengeance. We leave it in your hands. While our human systems can rightly work to bring evildoers to justice, we will hold no blood-thirsty vengeance in our hearts. It is yours to set things right in the end. We let that go.
Lord, we pray that you would be near today to those who lost a loved one on that tragic day ten years ago. Your Word says that you are close to those whose hearts are breaking. Surround them with a sense of your compassionate presence. If they don’t know you, let them know it is you who is meeting them in the valley of the shadow of death to replace their fear with peace. Send them your children to be your hands of tender care.
And lastly, Lord, we pray that you would be at work in human hearts and human systems of government and military power to work towards the good of mankind to counter the destruction we bring upon ourselves. Give leaders the ability to make decisions that lift up the hurting, bring justice for the poor, and work towards peace between people groups and nations that have only known conflict and strife. Let every one of us learn from the pain of human tragedy to be more kind, compassionate, and life-giving than we have been in the past, that your will might be done here on earth, as it is in heaven.
It is in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord, and for the sake of His Kingdom that we pray,