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FIRST-PERSON: Father, now comes the hardest prayer of all

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–Dear Heavenly Father,

I hurt at my innermost. I ache to the depths of my spirit. I am crushed. It is here, in the valley, that I plead with you to gather me in your strong, loving Daddy arms and hold me until I regain my spiritual strength.

I knew the world was an evil place, but even at 46 years of age I am astonished at the extent of the evil that indeed exists all around us.

The evil that could spend years plotting to murder thousands of innocent people. The evil that would compel 19 young men to believe that there is a heavenly reward for suicide missions that murder thousands of people.

The evil that rests in leaders who teach young men such malignant theology and then send them to their deaths. The evil that convinces hundreds of other people to provide logistical support and cover to their homicidal/suicidal brothers, and leads thousands of others to cheer when the terrible deed is done.

When words fail me, I turn to you. I know that you have the power to discern my heart’s deepest sentiments from nothing more than my ineffectual groanings. I am at that point.

So please hear me, Father, as I pray this hardest prayer.

I pray for the people who, frightened beyond measure, awaited their certain fate in the four doomed aircraft. I can’t imagine how they must have felt.

I can only hope that they had the peace that surpasses all understanding, found only in Jesus Christ. I can only hope that if they didn’t know Jesus, a Christian near them had time to tell them. I can only hope that this spurs me to be even more dedicated to spreading the good news.

I pray for the office workers who were instantly vaporized as volatile jet fuel ignited upon impact with the buildings. They didn’t have time for a last-minute appeal from the Christian in the next cubicle or down the hall.

I can only hope they were ready to meet their Maker as we each will someday and possibly, like these victims, at a time not of our choosing.

I pray for the families and friends of the thousands of victims who, in many cases, will never have a body to bury. Many of them will never know for sure how their loved ones died, or to what extent they suffered before they died.

Their parent, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter, true friend — wiped out. All they have, and all they will ever have, are the memories of their loved ones. I offer a special prayer for them.

I pray for the survivors who can’t stop seeing the horror even when they close their eyes. I pray for the survivors who will never be whole again in mind or body and in some cases both.

They will need more encouragement and support than we know. I fear we will lose many more at their own hands, because they can’t overcome the haunting images of that day.

I pray for the brave rescue workers who won’t step away from ground zero long enough to eat or sleep, so strong is their drive to find even one person alive in that million-ton pile of rubble. Please take care of them, and help them to take care of themselves.

I pray for the ministers and chaplains and counselors who must somehow find the words to comfort those in desperate need of spiritual solace. I pray that these extraordinary people, so willing to take the burdens of the many upon their own shoulders, will turn to you for empowerment.

I pray that this horrible chapter in American history will lead to the greatest revival this nation has ever known, and may it start in us. I pray that we will not seek blind vengeance, but rather that we would seek your face.

All of those pleas were hard enough to pray, Father, given the circumstances, but now comes the hardest part of all.

I pray for the souls of the perpetrators of this terrible act. I pray that the people who planned and carried out this terrible act will someday, somehow, come under conviction, repent of their sins and worship the true and living Son of God.

That’s hard for me to pray, Father, because I want to condemn them to hell. I want to be bitter like the elder brother of the prodigal son. I want to be judgmental. No, I want to be the judge myself. I want to decide their eternal fate according to my own scorecard. I want revenge.

But I can’t be that way, because one day I asked your Son into my heart and he changed my life. I can’t act like that even though my human nature wants to, because my nature changed when I was set apart by my Savior for the special work of helping to bring my native state, Mississippi, and the world to Jesus.

Thank you, Father, for saving a wretch like me. That makes praying this hardest prayer a lot easier.
Perkins is editor of the Baptist Record, Mississippi Baptists’ newsjournal, at www.mbcb.org.

    About the Author

  • William H. Perkins Jr.