Under the circumstances, the most constructive thing I can see to do is pray. But, how to pray? Depending on your political or religious sensibilities, it would be easy to see this tragedy as a judgement on Islam — or America, or even Bush. But is that how God sees it? How does God want us to respond?
[Read more] for my attempts to respond to God’s heart as best I understand it.
You are the God of the widow and the orphan. You love all people, for they are all created in your image. Whenever one human hurts another out of wrath, selfishness, or simple indifference, you are both grieved and angered. No matter what petty rationalizations or justifications we give for ourselves, you know our hearts. You know the pride and shame that drive us to act in ways displeasing to you.
Father, I watch in horror at the things being done in the name of Allah — whom Muslims equate with the God of Abraham. Yet I know full well that similar horrors have been done in the name of Christ. Worse, I know that I in my flesh am no better than them. In my comfortable, middle-class Western life I may not be tempted to lash out in physical violence and destruction. But, I too last out at others with emotional or psychological violence when I feel dishonored or abused, in ways that grieve your heart just as much — for I should know better, to the extent I know you better.
Father, I know that only the cross of Christ can forgive me, and free me from the bonds of shame that drive my own self-destructive behavior. I know that only the cross of Christ can truly bring healing and unity to a region riven by strife and hatred. Yet, you have given us the privilege and responsibility of interceding on behalf of those who do not know you. Plus, there are many Christians in positions of power and authority on the American side, as well as many Arab Christians in and around Iraq. Who knows, there may well be many Muslims who genuinely long to know your heart and your forgiveness, though they know little of Christ.
So laying aside all my pride and comfortable rationalizations, I cry out: Father, glorify thy name! Call your people, whomever and however they know you, to humble themselves before you in prayer. Show your power and your grace, no matter how much it costs us. Father, forgive us all for our self-righteousness and self-reliance, for being quick to condemn our opponents but slow to forgive them as you’ve forgiven us. Have mercy on us, O God. Not for our sake, for we deserve nothing but the fruits of our own folly. But for the sake of your name, and the people created in your image, we ask you to save Iraq. However you want. Using whatever you want from us.
I ask all this in Jesus name, Amen.