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FIRST-PERSON: The prayers of a hurting nation

MELISSA, Texas (BP)–September 11, 2001 is a day Americans will never forget. Five years ago, our nation was attacked by a people who hate us for who we are and how we live. We, as citizens of the United States, will never be the same.

The tragic attack on New York City and Washington, D.C. by murderers who called themselves zealots has had many effects on our nation. We have already seen many of them: increased airport security, racial and religious prejudice committed against some people, amazing acts of kindness and love provided by others, heroic rescue attempts accomplished by firefighters and police officers of all races and religions.

But I believe the greatest effects of this event have been a renewed spiritual appetite among Americans, a true desire for revival, and a renewed call to prayer.

When tragedy strikes, the most fundamental human questions arise. “Why did this happen?” “Why could God allow all those people to die?”

I know the questions exist, but sadly, sometimes our only answers are “I’m not sure”, “Let’s just hold on”, and “Remember, our Heavenly Father truly loves us”. Those answers may seem shallow and incomplete, but they are built on the foundation of true faith.

True faith is demonstrated by those who trust even when they don’t understand. True faith is expressed when people cry out to God for answers, and then trust Him, even when the answers don’t come as quickly as we would like. True faith believes what the writer of Hebrews wrote: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We have not yet seen all the results of this tragedy, but our God is the God of hope.

Many people attended prayer services at their churches on that tragic Tuesday evening five years ago. In many places across our land, people offered prayers in response to the tragedy. They offered prayers of thanks, prayers of sorrow, prayers of desperation, prayers of mourning and prayers of repentance. In one location near our church, people were allowed to write their prayers in the days following September 11, 2001.

I had the privilege of reading some of these prayers and observing the great faith displayed by many of our neighbors. After reading them and witnessing the demonstrations of faith and hope, I wanted to share them with others.

These prayers, spoken not to gain public notoriety but to work through tragic fears, remind us that our God reigns. These prayers, written in English, Spanish, and even Arabic, remind us that prayer comforts and heals.

Remember, these words of faith were written just days after the tragic events, long before we had answered all the questions about who attacked us.

One woman wrote, “Lord, we don’t have answers today, but we know that you are in control. Please keep us mindful of your grace and protection. May we always look to you for answers and strength.”

A humble gentleman prayed, “Dear God, thank-You for my sister’s illness today that kept her from her job as a flight attendant. I pray for all those who lost loved ones today. I pray for our president and all those making decisions for our country. Keep us steadfast in our faith, looking to you for strength. Amen.”

Another woman asked, “Lord, if we could really see this from Your perspective, wouldn’t we rejoice? Not at the loss of life, but at what great good must come out of such terrible evil. Help us to get hold of that and believe. May Your presence and direction and love and power really dwell in us now, more than our own weakness. We do love You. Help us as a people to love You and love each other more –- even perfectly. All praise to You.”

A teenager wrote, “Heavenly Father, please be with those who are suffering so. Please be with those who are trying to clean the rubble and find bodies. Please, Lord, be with us as a nation wounded. With your help, Lord, we will get through this.”

Finally, one woman asked “for peace in the knowledge that You, Lord, are in control. For the wisdom and courage to live out what You would have us to do in extraordinary times. In thanksgiving for those You kept safe. For the divine comfort for all those who have lost loved ones and/or a way of life. For Your wisdom, grace and power over President Bush and our many leaders. You are still on the throne and good. Bring many, many to You through this. Amen.”

Take these words of hope, even if they are five years old now, and add them to your own. Our world is full of evil people, but our world is ruled by a sovereign God. Your reaction to this tragedy and future tragedies can either pull you toward Him or push you away. My prayer is that you will be drawn to a greater faith than ever before. I believe the authors of these silent prayers have already been drawn to Him. Will you join us at His throne?

God bless America.
Trey Graham is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas (www.firstmelissa.com) and author of “Lessons for the Journey” and “Light for the Journey.” He can be reached at [email protected].

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  • Trey Graham