A Prayer for When You Don't Know What to Say

We recognize there are many among us who have only just crossed the invisible boundary marking their own before and after, who are looking at calendars today saying, This time last week, things were still normal.

For those who have witnessed the kind of scenes that could haunt for a lifetime, who crouched in fear for hours, whose senses have been seared with unwelcome, unthinkable sight and sound, we pray for a sanctified memory and a holy imagination.

Release them from the haunting, we pray.

For the parents, friends, co-workers, and family members who received final texts, phones calls, or heard no word at all, we ask for Your abiding presence to come beside, to stand behind, to walk ahead, to comfort.

For those who begin to shake when the low light of evening sends shadows long across the yard, we pray for peace.

For those whose sadness feels sharp like fear, soothe the jagged edges and bring relief.

For those who wait in the darkness groping for answers and finding only more questions, we pray for relief.

For those who have experienced loss but carry an odd-placed sense of responsibility, who can’t shake the unexplained guilt that lingers in the air around them, we pray You might calm the chaos and awaken their heart to Your love.

One day in the future, some may begin to feel like they should be over it by now; they may grow tired of going through the whole thing again, or feel pressure to heal already; for these we pray for the courage to let grief do her sacred, invisible work.

We recognize the many layers of sadness present among us, both the kind that settles like a cloud over a nation after terrible loss and the kind that bursts unwelcome into our homes.

May Your presence fill up and overflow the gaping holes that are left in the wake of tragedy.

Teach us to allow time and space for silence and sadness.

Guide us in our lament.

Heal us from our addiction to talking.

Forgive us when our words trample on the delicate ground of grief.

Live out Your Name among us, Emmanuel. Remind us you haven’t left us alone.

I shared a version of this prayer last year, but today it came back around. How I wish we didn’t have a need for prayers of grief. When we can’t do anything, we do what we can. First-responders offer medical care. Reporters offer perspective. Musicians write songs. As for me, I write prayers. We may be small, but we are not helpless. Come Lord Jesus.