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7 Ways to Pray After a Tragedy

Prayer as a powerful action and response.

Prayer after a tragedy
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Those of us who pray in times of tragedy may often do so because we feel helpless, because there seems to be little else we can do, but that doesn’t mean that prayer is a last resort. Prayer is not inaction. It is not a throwing-up-of-the hands or a folding-of-the-hands-with-a-helpless-sigh. Oh no. Prayer, rightly understood, is action. It is hard work. It is resolve. It is revolution. It does not exhaust our concern or fulfill our obligations to those who suffer, but it can and should be the source and foundation of our efforts. After all, God says, “Call on me in the day of trouble” (Psalm 50:15, NIV). And the Bible exhorts us: “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, NIV).

So go ahead. When tragedy strikes, strike back first with your prayers. Follow these biblical examples of prayer in times of tragedy

1)  Pray your confusion and frustration

Various kinds of healing oil and ointment were used as medicines in the ancient Mideast. One of the most highly prized was a “balm” that was produced in the region of Gilead, east of the Jordan River. When the prophet Jeremiah mourned the tragedies that he and his people faced, he cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22, NIV).

When tragedy strikes, it is okay to cry out to God, as David did in Psalm 22 (and Jesus echoed while suffering on the cross): “My God, my God, why…?” (Psalm 22:1, NIV).

2)  Pray for mercy

When I hear a siren or read of a tragedy, a prayer leaps to my lips almost unbidden: “Lord, have mercy.” It is a heartfelt and helpful way to pray, for those who suffer are in desperate need of mercy and relief from pain and sorrow.

3)  Pray for freedom from fear

Psalm 23 is rightly beloved among many people, partly because it gives strength to those who are facing or have faced tragedy. Pray that those most affected by tragedy will be able to say, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4, NIV).

4)  Pray for comfort

The rest of that verse in the 23rd Psalm supplies yet another prayer focus for times of tragedy: “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, NIV). Pray for the victims and those who suffer loss in a tragedy to experience comfort both natural and supernatural, both from those around them and from the knowledge of the presence of God.

5)  Pray for healing

Send prayers for healing to all who suffer—physically, mentally and emotionally—from the effects of a tragic event. Pray for the healing of all who need healing, as Jesus healed all who came to Him in His earthly ministry (see Luke 9:11).

6)  Pray for hope

One of the worst effects when tragedy strikes is the triumph of fear over hope, which can in turn bring about despair and depression. So pray that those who are touched by tragedy “may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).

7)  Pray for change

When Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer, He told them to pray, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13, KJV). That is a prayer that can be turned against any tragedy, past or future. Pray it often. Pray it in faith. Pray it and be ready for God to tell you how other efforts you might take can be added to your wrestling in prayer for the victims of tragedy.

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