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Fla. school tragedy: Prayer enlisted as tears abound

PARKLAND, Fla. (BP) — Amid the pressing anguish from the school shooting that claimed 17 lives in Florida, Baptists nationwide can come alongside victims and families by interceding in prayer, key Baptist leaders said in sorrow-laden statements.

Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, stated, “We ask that our Southern Baptist family join us in specific prayer this Sunday for those impacted by this horrific event. Our prayer is for God to grant comfort, mercy, and peace to these families.”

Green, in the wake of the shootings Wednesday (Feb. 14) at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, noted, “Our thoughts and prayers continue for the Parkland community. We are grateful for churches that are hosting prayer gatherings and loving their neighbors in this tragic time. We grieve with those who grieve in this hour.”

Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, set forth a prayer list in comments provided to Baptist Press:

“We pray for every family member of every victim — parents, siblings and extended relatives. We pray for the fellow students and friends of those who died. We pray for every other student who was wounded physically and/or emotionally by this horrific event. We pray for the 19-year old young man, Nikolas Cruz, who has been accused of perpetrating this horrendous crime. We pray for the law enforcement officers who have been and are working at the scene of the tragedy. We pray for everyone involved and for all the citizens across our nation as we set aside any differences and unite our hearts collectively as we all mourn and pray for the loved ones of these victims.

“Ours is a sinful world where tragedies such as this occur,” said Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn. “I urge all people to pray and seek the presence of the Holy Spirit that comes from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ alone can and will give the deepest comfort and peace to all who call upon Him.”

Gaines also shared, “On behalf of all Southern Baptists, I wish to convey our deepest, heartfelt sorrow to all those involved in the shooting that took place this week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen precious lives were taken in a senseless, sinful act of violence.”

Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, echoed the need for a prayer response, saying in comments to Baptist Press, “We are certainly praying for the victims and their families. We’re also praying for the churches and pastors in that area as they minister so unselfishly to this hurting community. We pray for our Lord to be very near to them all.”

The Florida convention reported Feb. 15 that churches in the area of the high school are mourning their own losses while offering words of hope and help to those hurting in their community.

David Hughes, lead pastor of the Church by the Glades, with its main campus located less than 10 minutes from the school, reported tearfully that several families in the church had suffered a fatality and one family has a son who is “gravely injured.”

At times like this, Hughes said, people often wrestle with the reasons for the tragedy but that’s not the most important question to be answering.

“What now?” he said is the better question. And “Who wins?”

“Do we let fear and cruelty, violence and hatred win,” Hughes asked, “or do we continue to fight against the darkness and continue to bring the message of hope and light that comes through Jesus Christ?”

Eddie Bevill, pastor of Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, just blocks from where the suspected gunman was taken into custody, noted, “Once you’re off the front page. it goes out of people’s minds unless you live in that community, but we will need to continue to be lifted up in the weeks and months to come.”

Parkridge hosted a cross-denominational outdoor prayer vigil on the afternoon of Feb. 15 followed that evening by a community prayer vigil at Pine Trails Park. The first two funerals of slain students were held today (Feb. 16), for Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, and Meadow Pollack, 18.