The horror of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 is indelibly etched in the hearts and souls of all Americans. It's a calamity that none of us could have imagined only a short time ago.
These are times that strip away the places, feelings, routines, and assumptions that had seemed most real to us, and had been most often the measure of our wealth. We're left feeling impoverished, vulnerable, and perhaps abandoned by God. Feeling, in other words, utterly mortal.
These are times when we turn to prayer. And in that turning I find great hope. My friend Max Lucado wrote recently, "This is a different country than it was a week ago. We're not as self-centered as we were. We're not as self-reliant as we were. Hands are out. Knees are bent. This is not normal. And I have to ask the question, `Do we want to go back to normal?' Perhaps the best response to this tragedy is to refuse to go back to normal."
I agree with Max. In fact, these are times when "normal" living and real prayer flourish best. Each time we sing "God Bless America," the nation is crying out for God's blessings and favor and help. Though we might wish them to be, God's blessings are not an insurance policy against the sufferings and tragedies that exist in our fallen world. The Apostle Peter advised, "Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;" (I Peter 4:12)
But the experience of such pain doesn't mean we aren't also able to experience God's blessings. When we're in the midst of these sufferings, our Heavenly Father longs to pour out His supernatural favor on all who are willing to ask. If ever people from all walks of life sense a need for divine aid and blessing, it is now.
That's why it's so heartening to see churches, communities, and individuals rising to incredible feats of service. And as we stretch beyond our comfort zones in God's service, we discover that His hand is available to empower us. I recall an example from the Old Testament of how God works through us in desperate times. Many years after Jerusalem had been left in ruins by enemy forces, it fell to a man named Zerubbabel to lead in the effort to rebuild the city. When he balked at the task, God reminded him that he would succeed "not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit." Therefore, I encourage Christians everywhere to pray boldly, not only for significant ministry in Jesus' name, but for the power of the Spirit to accomplish it.
Lastly, since we do not know where or when evil forces may strike again, I urge you to continue to pray that God will keep us from evil. Ultimately, only God has the power to keep violence and hatred on this scale from succeeding. We must plead, then, for protection from the evil that is now so nakedly apparent--in the world, in others, and in our own hearts.
One comfort for Christians at times like this is that our faith is matter-of-fact about evil. The Bible calls it sin. We know that it is real and ubiquitous on this planet, and that our Savior came to rescue us from its grip now and from its consequences for eternity. In fact, the night before Jesus gave Himself up as a sacrifice for our rescue, He comforted His friends with spiritual advice that was large enough to account for both the joy and horror in life. He said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Despite our sorrows, I urge you to remember that what counts most hasn't changed at all since Sept. 11. Truth is still truth. Love still endures (and ultimately wins over hatred). And God still answers prayer. Join with me and millions of others in beseeching Him for peace, justice, and healing for our nation and our world.