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Prayers for Paris...and Beirut...and Baghdad

I stayed up late last night reading every snippet of information I could on the attack on Paris. I watched the death toll number rise. Finally, begrudgingly, I rose off the couch and headed to bed. I awoke to see the number higher still. And it climbs yet today. And my heart breaks for Paris. 

I was in Paris once. I loved the cafes and parks and book stores and benches to sit on and people to watch. I am a people watcher, always have been, and Paris is one of the best places for people like me to be: life is lived in the open in Paris. It is beautiful. And an attack on such a culture it seems particularly horrific and terrible and heart breaking. The worst attack since the Second World War, one news article said. It is terrifying. 

My heart also breaks for Beirut. It breaks for the people who wish that they could just live their lives on the street, in the open, enjoy the evening in cafes and patios but cannot. Their lives and city shattered, again. My heart is broken for Beirut not because of the bombings that happened two days before the Paris attack were a shock, but because they weren’t. The coordinated attacks on the southern suburbs of Beirut were the first of their kind in over a year, one news article told me. One year without attacks was seen as something to be grateful for. And that is a different kind of heartbreak. A different kind of terror: the ongoing continuous action of living in a tumultuous place. Lebanon. You say “the Middle East” and suddenly it is a different story, a complicated story with a complicated background and complicated emotions. But it causes terror all the same.   

And that is to say nothing about Baghdad. Where do you even start? There is a deep well of terror. We might even be getting numb to it. And we in North America are so far away from what is happening there. How must it feel to be there? What about the families and communities that live in a constant state of perpetual worry? Can you imagine living in a place where a family funeral is not safe? A place where prayer becomes, simply: “Dear God. Iraq. Please.”

But that seems to be my prayer this week for all these places: “Dear God. Paris. Beirut. Baghdad. Peace. Please.” I like the verse in Romans where Paul tells us that “the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26, ESV)

I like this verse today because I do not know how to pray as I ought, not today. I feel weak. I do not know how I am going to join together with my church family tomorrow and pray as the church. I do not know how to pray anymore. The words just aren’t there. But, thank God, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, intercedes for us, and groans alongside us, a groaning too deep for words. 

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.  

[Image: Flickr user Jerome Bon]

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