Beyond Thoughts and Prayers -by Mark J.

Mark Johnson | January 24, 2018

The following is a prayer I offered tonight at our regular Wednesday night prayer in light of the horrific, disturbing and far too often school shootings, this time closer to home at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky.  This prayer is influenced by language offered by my friend and colleague, Rabbi David Wirtschafter, whose Facebook post became a launching pad for my own meditations.  May we all (Jews, Christians and all persons of goodwill) work, work, work beyond our prayers and for a better and safer tomorrow.   A future post will highlight actual action steps.


God of Abel and Cain, Eve and Adam,

God of the victims and the victimizers.

You are a challenge for those who oppress and a comfort for those

who are oppressed; as we remember how

    the same person can, at different times and in different situations,

    over the course of single life: be both.

In the depths of such heartbreak and pain we pray:

We pray that this terror as experienced yesterday morning at Marshall County High School would never be repeated.

May this one, be the last one.  No more.

And yet, we are disturbed at how unlikely, and even impossible, this grand hope and this prayer.  We are hard pressed and feel powerless.  To lose even one child so tragically and senselessly is always one too many. Yet there is another, and again another and still, another.  How can our appearance be nothing but one of sackcloth and ashes.

Receive our sobs in your mercy.  Give ear to our frustrations. Offer purpose to our anger.  Keep us from turning away, from moving on, from forgetting, from avoidance, from denial, and from a sobering awareness that it can be our inaction, numbness, and silence that helps contribute to this madness.

We are a people of unclean lips and dwell within a land of unclean lips. 

Woe is me.  Woe are we.  Woe and despair are our collective names.

It is not unreasonable that we expect our children to be safe, to value our schools as places for learning and life’s healthy progression toward greater skill and maturity. 

God help us! Especially when they have been turned into a battlefield of fear and carnage.

We pray for these parents now tasked with burying their children, rather than teaching them to drive or to get ready for college and adult living.  We ask for the intervention of your mercy and strength to companion them in their grief and to lay claim to the absolutely irreplaceable value of their precious children's' lives.

We pray for kids fighting to live, even in this very moment, while others are facing life-long challenges to speak, to walk, and to refashion their once unblemished bodies for a future, still possible with blessings and hopes.  We pray for those traumatized as teachers and helpers, as interveners and first-responders, as protectors, and first-hand witnesses to such horror.

And we ask for courage.  Courage to call out an enterprise that has capitalized upon our fears; that teaches us the only answer to violence is more violence; that takes cheap advantage of our legislators who are bought and sold with the blood of the innocents.

Rather than covering our ears, make us listen to their cries.

Rather than closing our eyes, let us stare back into the abyss with transforming and determined love.

Rather than turning our heads, grant us the wisdom to use our minds and our mouths to finally bring an end to this scrounge across our land.

Rather than hardening our hearts, give us the compassion to turn the pain of others into a plea for justice.

The life of one single child is a price too high.   But that bill came overdue a long time ago.  Thoughts and prayers without meaningful action have no purpose.  God, forgive us. May we never accept this as our new normal. May your love lead us out of the wilderness, and into the paths that make for righteousness and peace, for all our children.




3 months


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