I posted my own brief prayer on Facebook Sunday after learning of the shooting in Orlando, and I’ve shared a few posts from others that moved or touched me. But I confess that I’m a bit tired of well-crafted prayers proliferating on my social media pages. At some point it starts to feel like a prayer competition. No doubt most of these prayers are heartfelt and helpful to many, but I’ve seen so many of them in recent years.
At the same time that thoughts and prayers have begun to grate on me, I am far beyond that with American society.
As a pastor, it is not unusual for me to hear people speak of their blessings. They may comment to me that they have been blessed, usually referring to what they appreciate in their lives, such as possessions, wealth, position, children, etc. In prayers people sometimes refer to their many blessings, often with similar meaning. What I've never heard is someone including the items that Jesus lists in the Beatitudes.
I think I'm getting a tiny taste of what it must feel like to be a typical Muslim at a typical mosque when people twist Islam to justify their hate or violence. It happens when I hear someone like Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraging Liberty University students to get concealed-carry permits so they would be able to "end those Muslims before they walked in."
The Old Testament book of Ezra tells of events when Jewish exiles in Babylon were permitted to return to Israel and begin rebuilding Jerusalem. Prophets had spoken of a day when exiles returned and Jerusalem became great again, surpassing the glory of David and Solomon. But it didn't work out quite that way. Jerusalem remained a shell of its former self, an insignificant, backwater town.