How to Pray About Violence When Words Won’t Come

Written by on June 10, 2014

Emilio Hoffman vigil

Tuesday morning, fourteen-year-old freshman soccer player, Emilio Hoffman, was shot to death in the boys’ locker room at Reynolds High School in Troutdale. Then the shooter took his own life.

The campus is less than a mile from Mount Hood Community College, where my twenty-year-old daughter, Emily, goes to school. A small park called Imagination Station flanks the property of the high school where the crime took place. Years ago, as preschoolers, my children, Ben, Andy, and Emmy scrambled across the fort, turrets, and slides there, maybe playing heroes and villains. But bad guys only attacked long ago and far away, right?


In waves of anguish like this, we cry out to the Lord for healing. For mercy. For a fractured community to forgive and to live in peace. The lyrics to my favorite song, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, elude me. A world with perfect harmony? Hardly.

Let’s pray:

  • God, our hearts hurt. We want to spend time with You. In Your presence, God, we sense Your love for us. Here is our safe place.
  • We’re in a battle with evil. What level of worship does this battle call for?
  • Jesus, today, we, Your children, sit on Your lap and tenderly touch the lines carved in Your face—creases round Your eyes put there by deep grief and abiding joy.
  • What grieves us grieves You. Holy Spirit, thank You for Your singular comfort.
  • We have not received a spirit of fear, but Your Spirit of Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.
  • We fight back at the devil, the true enemy. We forgive the criminal.
  • We retaliate further: we forgive everyone who’s offended or deeply hurt us.
  • Although it doesn’t make sense, we declare You’re working even this incredibly deep pain for good. (Romans 8:28)
  • Though the sorrow may last for the night, Your joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)  Today we weep. But deep down, Jesus, we know Your joy awaits.
  • Father, here’s a blank slate for You to write on.  What are you saying to us in this?
  • Holy Spirit, where is the instead You always promise in Your goodness?

Friend, where is the divine exchange in this – God’s instead? I invite you to leave a comment below.

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  1. Kathryne   On   June 11, 2014 at 6:32 am

    My heart has been so grieved by the violence that I’ve stopped watching the news. I’m not one that runs from ugliness, having been a criminal justice prof. But lately it seems overwhelming. My prayers are always for the families comfort, healing & grace to endure.
    On another note, I view the increasing darkness as a sign His glorious return is closer.

  2. Nancey   On   June 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    A lot of shooting in Portland this week. It may not seem as tragic as the school shooting but it was closer to home. Police shot and killed a man Weds. AM after he tried to avoid stopping for an officer. That was my daughter’s boyfriends brother. It is not as sad a story because he brought it on myself by choosing a destructive lifestyle, but still left a lot of hurt. I pray for his family, too.

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