Living in a new normal doesn’t feel so normal. The word tragedy is too much a part of my vocabulary these days. I have searched for other words, but tragedy describes best the world events constantly swirling around us. From the recent Easter bombings in Sri Lanka to the terrorism in the Southern Californian synagogue, it is painfully obvious that we live in a chaotic and fallen world. In a world where the new normal is one tragedy followed by another tragedy followed by yet another. It can be overwhelming. Strike that, it IS overwhelming.
For Christians, this normal is not surprising. Our world is broken and distorted. This brokenness invades everything and everyone. The Bible calls this brokenness and distortion sin. Because of sin our only hope is found in Jesus. You may know this, believe it, and order your life around these truths, but that does not minimize the fact that we are constantly faced with new tragedies. Each and every tragedy evokes a response. No matter the tragedy, the most immediate response ought to be prayer. Often, though, prayer feels small compared to the massive tragedy in front of us. Even so, we should pray. We need to pray.
The question is, how are we supposed to pray in the midst of chaos when our prayers seem so feeble? Here are my thoughts on how to pray in the midst of our new and tragic normal:
Fear, anger, grief, frustration, shock, and a sense of helplessness. These are only some of the emotions that you may experience when you hear the latest news story or are confronted with the next tragedy. Our emotional responses are real. When you pray, express those emotions and even your questions to God. God is big enough and caring enough to handle our emotions, our questions, and our heartfelt cries.
Words are not always required
Often, when faced with tragedy, it is difficult to know exactly what or how to pray. Getting words to come out in any sort of coherent way is a monumental task. That’s okay. Remember, we have the Holy Spirit who intercedes and groans on our behalf. This Spurgeon quote has been especially helpful for me: “A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” The underlying point is to pray even when the right words are in short supply. God hears us!
Pray short prayers, long prayers, ugly prayers, polished prayers. If you need help, pray the Psalms. Pray in the morning, at night, over lunch, or walking between meetings. It can feel meaningless, but we need to persevere in prayer. It doesn’t matter where you pray or how long you pray, but pray. Our prayers in the hand of God are truly powerful.
Use the buddy system
Praying with a friend or two is always a good idea, particularly in times of tragedy. It allows us to be a little more honest, to process with others, and can help us make sense of our thoughts and feelings. Praying in community also helps our prayers to stay God-centered instead of self-centered. Multiply your prayers by praying with others.
I don’t like living in this new normal. The word tragedy is now used in my daily conversations. It ought not be this way. Until that day, let’s keep lifting up feeble prayers in our chaotic world.