Be a voice for those who have been silenced

Rev. Amber Richardson
Guest Columnist

The Apostle Paul wrote, in Romans 8:26: “For we do not know how we ought to pray…” I feel like Paul. I do not know how I should pray. Besides that, I do not think my prayers are enough, unless they are backed by action. 

On Sunday night, for reasons as yet unknown, a gunman unloaded several weapons into a crowd who were enjoying an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. At last count, 59 people had died and 528 had been physically injured. There will be many more than that with emotional scars from what they witnessed that night. Many people will discover they have symptoms of PTSD days, weeks, months, or even years after the spilled blood has been washed off the parking lot. 

I do not know how I should pray about this. I can pray that the wounds heal quickly, but that does not seem like enough. I can pray for the families of those who died, that they find comfort, but there will be little comfort for them from this seemingly senseless act of violence. I can pray for an end to gun violence, but nothing will happen without me putting action behind my words.

Prayer is helpful. It helps us feel like we are doing something. It calms our nerves to talk to God about what is happening. The letter to the Philippians (chapter 4 verses 6 and 7) says “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” Prayer helps, but it does not solve the problem. It is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. It feels good to feel like we are helping, but we really are not fixing the problem.

I thought that things would change around the ownership of guns after the shooting at Columbine High School, but they did not. I thought things would change around the ownership of guns after the shooting at Newtown, but they did not. I thought things would change around the ownership of guns after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Orlando, Florida, and countless others, but they have not. 

How many people have to die in senseless acts of violence before something changes? 

Almost 60 more voices were silenced on Sunday night. Almost 60 people will not be there to celebrate their next birthday. Almost 60 chairs will be empty at the next family meal. 

My voice, however, was not silenced on Sunday night. If you are reading this, your voice was not silenced on Sunday night. If you have friends and family who you cherish spending holidays with, their voices were not silenced on Sunday night. 

We can, and should, pray for those who have been affected by the violence in Las Vegas. I don’t know how we ought to pray. I do know how to act, however. I can call my representatives in Washington D.C. and tell them that something needs to change before there is another grieving family, before there is one less birthday to celebrate, before there is one more empty place at a dinner table. 

We can look at the financial statements of our elected representatives and see how many of them have taken how much money from the gun lobbies, and demand that they listen to what their constituents have to say instead of what the most money has to say.

My heart is broken for those affected by this act of violence. My heart has been broken for those affected by so many acts of violence. God’s heart breaks with ours. God weeps with us. God, however, cannot change what happens because God gave us free will to act as we want. That is why bad things happen to good people. 

I don’t know how I ought to pray about the violence, but I do know how I ought to act about the violence. I cannot sit quietly while one more family grieves a life cut too short. I encourage you to no longer sit quietly and to take action also. Our prayers must be backed with action. We are the voice for those whose voices have been silenced. 

(Rev. Amber Richardson is a pastor at United Christian Church in Miles City.)