On Prayer: Pews and Plastic Tables

Do you remember where you were September 11, 2001?

I remember everything about that morning. I remember one of my best friends making a joke about planes and buildings that almost made me throw up in the hallway. He didn’t fully understand what was going on until that evening.

I remember feeling fear for the first real time in my life. Uncertainty. Hopelessness. Confusion.

Over the next few days, as some level of clarity arose, those emotions of uncertainty and fear gave way to anger and honestly, hatred. The current ISIS situation feels somewhat similar. Our enemy is not necessarily a country, but an organized group which collectively knows no country or flag.

My most formative memories of the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were not images of brave men and women running into a building as everyone else ran out or of the wreckage of a plane crash in a Pennsylvania field. Those images are vital for us to remember but they were not the most formative for me.

The most formative memory for me took place in a wooden pew.

Our church gathered for prayer the next night. We were in anguish. The pain in the room was thick.I grew up in a church of mostly senior adults, many of whom served in World War II.

The same hands that helped stamp out Hitler’s evil now held mine as we prayed together.

Over 13 years later, I had a similar experience. Yesterday our church gathered together to pray.

Our hearts were wrung out with sorrow after spending the week wrestling through not just another ISIS video, but one depicting the simultaneous beheading of 21 brave Christian men, “people of the cross” as they are referred to in the video.

Just like we did over a decade ago, the people of God gathered to pray. To plead. To groan. To mourn.

Some things have changed.

I traded a pew for a white plastic table. I understand more about the world now but much of that understanding actually stems from realizing I don’t understand all that much, especially evil like this.

Yet many things have not changed.

God’s ear is still inclined toward his people in the place of prayer. I love that image. Much like a little kid filled with anticipation, on the edge of his seat, God is actively peering over the guardrails of heaven waiting and longing to hear from us, his people, especially in the times when we don’t quite know what to say.

 Eventually the impossibility of prayer becomes possible as you sit with the community of faith. We read over the 21 names together.

21 Read over the names a few times.

Maybe you’re like me and many of them are difficult to pronounce. That   does not make them less significant.

Think of the families of each martyr. Wives who are now widows. How many children were orphaned in a matter of seconds? 65? 80? 100?

#15 is who breaks my heart the most. “Worker from Awr village.”

Worker, we may not know your name, but the Lord does. Your Creator, who you now see face to face, KNOWS you.

Pray God would be made known loud and clear to the brokenhearted families of these 21 brave, godly men.


Question: What prayers have you been praying this last week?


Recommended Resources:

What ISIS Really Wants – If you’re unfamiliar with ISIS, this is an incredibly detailed article from the Atlantic. I would encourage you to block out the 20 minutes or so it takes to read it. Maybe take a few sittings to get through it all.

A Call to Pray for the Persecuted Church – Sarah Bessey

A Biblical Meditation on the ISIS Execution of 21 Christians – The Gospel Coalition

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