Are prayers for Paris enough?

Does anyone else feel as unsettled as I do this morning?  The events in Paris yesterday have left me conflicted on so many levels.  I was extremely grateful that I had the option of shutting off the TV and the social media feeds yet I felt guilty for doing so. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the peacefulness and safety that I live in while being reminded of the thousands of others who flee war, violence, and mayhem every day.  I was angry with the foolish reporter who admitted he was hiding in the bushes so he could be close the action and was whispering so the police would not hear him.  How dare he put himself and the police in further danger by his need to capture the story.  That was when I switched channels on the TV.  But truth is the other news channels were not much better.

The news was full of supposed experts putting forward their suppositions, none of which were truly helpful.  Yet there were moments of redemption.  I was encouraged when I heard that Paris cab drivers were turning off their meters and driving people to safety for free. My spirit lifted again with hope when Parisians took up the #PorteOuverte hash tag to offer safe harbour to strangers stranded and in danger. I am sure that as the stories continue to surface we will hear about acts of bravery, selflessness, and kindness.

Those stories will soften the reality but they won't change it.  Many people's lives ended last night and around the world people's lives changed.  Some changed drastically with the loss of loved ones or with permanent damage they will bear for the rest of their living days.  Those of us who were far away changed a bit too.  We lost another layer of the insulating innocence and we were reminded of the precariousness of peace. As our hope was being battered posts were popping up on all the social media feeds with the rally cry of "pray for Paris".

The cries for prayer left me just a tad angry.  They were being circulated freely by those who pray and those who don't.  Suddenly those who had no problem jumping on the no prayer in city hall bandwagon were calling out for prayer.  Frankly it pissed me off just a bit and by this morning I was loaded for bear.  Now let's be clear, I was not upset by the call for prayer.  I was struggling with something different.  It was the ease with which we could hit the share or like button before resuming our lives that made me so uneasy.  I am not criticizing those who shared or liked the pray for Paris post, in fact as I write I wonder if I did it too.

But I wondered if our prayers needed to be different in some way.  I wondered if our world might turn the corner to a peaceful future if we all started to pray bigger prayers for reconciliation and healing.  Sometimes when I can't sleep I recite the Lord's Prayer in my head.  Other people count sheep I say the Lord's Prayer.  I thought about the Lord's Prayer today and wondered what clues it might reveal about the bigger prayer that began tugging at my heart last night.

The bigger prayer asks for forgiveness, the grace to grant forgiveness, and delivery from evil.  It starts with us at a very personal level.  Regardless of our faith persuasion we each run up against times when we need forgiveness.  Then it moves to our relationships with others.  You can be a complete agnostic and still have to forgive someone else at some point if you want to live an emotionally healthy life.  The ability to forgive and the gift of being forgiven are two of the wondrous parts of being human.  Then there is the big one - delivery from evil.  When life is out of control and the world seems to be spiraling toward chaos, even world leaders who may have no faith at all, name it as evil.

What happened last night was evil according to Merriam-Webster's definition.  We are ill equipped to deal with evil and so we turn to prayer.  That's not a bad thing but let's make our prayers count.  This is a call to a bigger prayer that includes not only Paris, but you, and I, and our world.  I challenge you today to set a timer and offer a bigger prayer on the hour at least twice.  Imagine if even half the people around the world did that for one twenty-four hour period.  That would mean over seven billion prayers that set aside religious differences to pray for forgiveness, the grace to grant forgiveness, and delivery from evil.  If you want to be part of the prayer that goes beyond Paris accept the call to action.  Two prayers in a twenty-four hour period.