God of our fathers, this is our first Sunday since the shooting in Charleston, and so we turn to You, the God of all comfort. You have sent Your Comforter, Your Holy Spirit, into a world filled with sorrows in order to carry them together with us. Your Spirit is present and doing this because You had first sent Your Son into the world as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Because He bore our sins on the cross, and because He then rose again from the dead, it was possible, it became necessary, for the Comforter to come. We turn to You now in desperate need of His presence and His active ministry. We turn to You now empty, in need of the fullness of His goodness.
Father, one of the broken people came into a place of healing and tried to reverse Your work in the world. He wanted to make a sanctuary of salvation into a room full of malice, and so we plead with You to help us to see the design and plan behind this evil action, and not to fall for whatever the greater intention was. Help us to keep looking to You. He tried to smother Your infinite light with his tiny patch of darkness, and so we pray to You to protect us from the incoherence of believing that the darkness could ever overcome the light of Your mercy, grace, kindness, goodness and love.
We rejoice at the abundant grace You are pouring out on those most affected, and we pray that our prayers would continue to sustain them. Father, we know that they feel the grace of Your presence heavily now, and we know that they understand how many people are praying for them, but we also plead with you to sustain them in the months and years to come, when the shock gives way to the ache of years. We pray for Your comfort now, and we pray that Your comfort would continue and that it would grow.
Father, protect us all from the strife of tongues. Hide us away in Your pavilion; set us upon Your rock.
God and Lord, You have given us great and precious promises. “To this man will I look, Even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, And trembleth at my word.” We ask You to look on us now. We want to obey Your Word in response to this. We want to obey it completely. We want to turn entirely away from the kind of brokenness that does this kind of thing, but embrace the kind of brokenness that pleases You, and that invites Your smile.
And Father, we rejoice in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Because we are Your servants, we are not abandoned in this place. Our grief is the grief of temporary separation, and we are not as those who are without You and without hope in the world. Those who died because they decided to attend a prayer meeting are now among a great triumphant host. Your Word tells us that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. We conclude by asking You by Your grace to crown those who died with glory and honor, and to adorn those who are grieving with a spirit of everlasting consolation and good hope, so that they may be sorrowful and yet always rejoicing. We ask that every tear they shed be a tear that was already shed by the Lord Jesus. Help them to continue to follow our Lord in all grace.
So we pray to You, we lift all of this up to You, in the name of Jesus. We offer up all the inarticulate griefs that have no words attached to them yet, and we do that in the name of Jesus as well. And as we come to You in the power of the Spirit, in the name of Jesus, we do it in the full confidence that the way You would have us live is not the way of the world, and we ask You to give to us what You require of us. Hear us now, we pray. Answer our petitions, we pray. We do all of this in the strong name of Jesus, and amen.