A Prayer for Love in the Face of Violence
This is an updated version to reflect recent events.
If you’re struggling to know what to say, and how to say it, when addressing the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the shootings of Dallas police officers in personal prayer or during Sunday worship, consider using this summary and prayer:
Tuesday morning Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot and killed by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A civil rights investigation has been initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Police officers responded to a call that Mr. Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store and that he had a gun with him. The convenience store owner who witnessed the shooting stated that the police officers acted aggressively upon arrival and that Mr. Sterling was not holding the gun at any time during his interactions with the police. The gun was in his pocket, and his hands were not near his pockets. Cellphone video footage shows Sterling on the ground, with his gun in his pocket, under two police officers when he was shot and killed. The two officers involved are on administrative leave.
Last night Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota during a traffic stop. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were both in the car when he was shot. Mr. Castile told the officer he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and that he had a gun with him in the car. After being asked for his ID, Mr. Castile was shot 4 times while reaching for his license and registration. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend was then told to step out of the car by police officers with guns drawn, forced to her knees, and placed in the back of a police car with her daughter. The officer who opened fire is on paid administrative leave.
Five police officers were killed and seven were wounded by snipers during a peaceful protest Thursday night in downtown Dallas, Texas. The peaceful march was held over the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Police were present at the protest and at about 9:00 p.m. shots were fired at the officers by snipers with rifles from elevated positions. One of the snipers was later killed with a robot bomb by the police. Three other suspects are in custody. The sniper who was killed stated that he was not affiliated with any movements or groups.
God, we are stunned and deeply troubled by the killings that occurred this week. We lift prayers to you, asking that your Spirit intercede for us and for this world.
We mourn with those who are suffering the loss of precious members of their family--in Dallas, in Baton Rouge, in Minnesota. May your Spirit give them peace.
We pray for a Church that does not become polarized at this moment--may the Church proclaim, with words and with action, both that black lives matter and that acts of brutal violence against public servants are wrong.
May our congregations vocalize God's definitive "NO" to the murder of black lives. May all of us be awakened and stand alongside the black community, willing to lay aside confusion and questions and to proclaim that this epidemic of police violence must be addressed. May privilege and power be used as a means to raise awareness and demand justice. May leaders feel pressure from all who live in their communities--white, brown, black--and respond with plans to stop the destruction of black bodies.
We lift in prayer the police officers who must show up for work today, who are doing a dangerous job for too little pay, who are personally blamed for the failure of the whole system. Give them wisdom and strength as those whom we rely on to maintain composure, fairness, and a commitment to the common good. Come alongside them, Lord. Grant them protection and empower them to serve justly.
We pray for healing in communities that carry the weight of generations of broken down relationships between law enforcement and the people they are called to serve. We lament our history of racism and pray for love in the face of violence.
May your Church be afflicted in its core again for this sign of a deep sickness in our communities.
May we listen to the prophetic voices speaking truth and pleading for action.
May our prayers find footing, that we might live lives that are answers to our prayers for peace and justice.
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