In July 2016, I had the privilege of speaking and praying at a community prayer vigil that was being hosted at our church, in light of all the recent deaths and division in the country. After re-reading it in 2019, I thought this message and prayer is still needed today.
May these words be a blessing to you now as they were to those in attendance then.
Hello everyone. I want to first thank all who are here in attendance. Our unity as the Church tonight will speak volumes of Jesus to our city. Thank you KAXL 88.3 LIFE FM for putting this together. I want to thank Hingepoint Church’s safety team standing guard tonight. Thank you men. And I want to also thank any law enforcement in attendance. Thank you for the good you do.
God did not allow the very first chapter of His holy book to end without declaring one of the most important truths and realities about Creation, that every human being is created in the image of God after His own likeness.
Adam and Eve had no race/ethnicity. They were not Jewish, nor Caucasian, nor African, nor Spanish, nor Asian, nor any other. They were simply human, simply image bearers of God. We who are in Jesus are free again, like before the Fall and entrance of sin, we are free again to see all people simply as humans, as image bearers of God. Thus, every human life lost is a loss of a representation of God's image (whether friend, or foe, or those we don't know).
In the context of what I just shared, I will be reading some names of people who died last week:
Alton Sterling – image bearer
Anthony Nuñez – image bearer
Dylan Noble – image bearer
Officer Brent Thompson – image bearer
Fermin Vincent Valenzuela – image bearer
Baliff Joseph Zangaro – image bearer
Officer Lorne Ahrens – image bearer
Melissa Ventura – image bearer
Officer Michael Krol – image bearer
Officer Michael Smith – image bearer
Philando Castile – image bearer
Officer Patrick Zamarripa – image bearer
Pedro Villanueva – image bearer
Raul Saavedra-Vargas – image bearer
Baliff Ron Kienzle – image bearer
Vinson Ramos – image bearer
34 people died this past week in Bakersfield – all image bearers
275-400 gun deaths alone across the country last week – all image bearers
Every human life lost is a loss of a representation of God's image (whether friend, or foe, or those we don't know).
We don’t normally think of the life of others like this. I know I don’t. I can be indifferent toward the loss of a life when it does not directly involve me. But that is wrong. At times, we even show more dignity toward animal lives and not that of other image-bearers. This must not be, Church.
God Himself says twice in Ezekiel, in 18:23 and in 33:11 (NLT),
“As surely as I live, says the [LORD God], I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live.”
If God is not indifferent even toward the death of the wicked, then we, as His children, have no excuse on being indifferent toward the death of any human—whether foe or those we don't know; whether justified or unjustified or unsure as to the cause of their death; whether white, or Hispanic, or black, or Asian, and so on. We should not be indifferent toward the death of any human.
Tonight, as the Church of God in Jesus Christ, let us agree together in prayer for the families of those image-bearers who have died this week; let us also agree together in prayer against the enemy who wants to use events like this past week and the media to stir up division and hate in the Body of Christ.
God says in 2Chronicles 7:14, that
“if [His] people who are called by [His] name will humble themselves, and pray and seek [His] face, and turn from their wicked ways, then [He] will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
In this case, we are coming together tonight in humility, praying and seeking God’s face with the hope of repentance not only from within the Church but within our nation, and that God would forgive us of our collective sin and heal the damage in the Church, heal the distress in our nation, and heal the pain in the lives of the families who have experienced loss.
Please bow with me in prayer.
Heavenly Father, You tell us in Your Word that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Father, we are coming before Your throne with one voice tonight. Please, right now before we intercede on the behalf of others, please remove anything from our heart that is not pleasing to You, anything that may hinder our prayers from being heard on high.
Tonight, wives are without their husbands, children are without their fathers, parents are without their child, and families are without their loved ones. God, the families of those who lost their lives this past week, as well as the families of the other lives lost from this year, need You. They need Your grace to help them in their time of need. My wife and I almost lost our son 3 years ago and the pain of that felt unbearable, so I cannot imagine the pain of actually losing my spouse, or child, or them losing me.
Please comfort these families, Lord. If they truly know You, help them to find comfort in the truth of the Your gospel and Your character. Remind them of Your faithfulness. Remind them of how if You did not spare Your own Son for them then they can trust You even in the face of these tragedies and agonizing pain. May the local Body of Christ among them truly extend Your embrace to them. May these families feel Your hugs and holds through Your Church around them.
We pray the same for those families that do not know You Lord. Please send a community of believers to speak comfort through You and Your love through them into those families lives.
May Your local churches walk out Apostle Paul’s word in 2Corinthians 1:3-4 to all these families,
“[You] God [are] our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. [You] comfort us in all our [sufferings] so that we can comfort others. When they are [suffering], we will be able to give them the same comfort [You LORD] God [have] given us.”
Empower Your Church to do this right now. These families need Your Church to be this extension of You right now.
Please help these families eventually come to forgiveness. Unforgiveness is poisonous. It slowly eats away at the person until their heart is cold and hard and full of hate. Only Your grace and love can keep away or remove the poison of unforgiveness. Please help these families come to forgive their offenders.
God, please fill the void caused by their loss with You. However this has to be done, we beg of You to do so. We know only You can truly fill the deep void of loss in our hearts. Please do so for these families, Father.
We pray for those families that don’t know You, Jesus. We pray that You would somehow use this tragedy to lead them to saving faith in You. Let not their loss be for nothing, for You take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but only want them to turn from their wicked ways. Somehow please sovereignly use these tragedies to bring about redemption in the lives of the family members and friends, just as You did for Jacob’s family through Joseph. What the enemy meant for evil, LORD God You can use for Your glorious plan in the lives of Your Creation. We pray that now.
Holy Spirit, soften our hearts and grant us empathy for others. Help us to be compassionate toward others like Jesus. Break through our fears, our pride, and our religiosity and soften hearts toward the loss of any life and not only those whom we deem justified to receive compassion. We would be devastated if any of these deaths (justified or not) were our family member, or child, or spouse, and we would expect empathy from others (maybe not globally, but locally within our familial communities).
Help us to treat others how we want to be treated, and empower us to go further and treat others how You have treated us when we were dead in our sins and justly headed for Your wrath.
Holy Spirit, work in us to not dismiss the loss of any human life, work in us to mourn with all those families who are mourning right now. Holy Spirit, work in us to reflect the loving, shepherd’s heart of Jesus.
Lastly, Father, we pray against the spiritual enemy element in all that is happening. Our flesh, the world’s ways, and Satan have successfully used media and social media this past week to blow things way out of proportion, to sow hostility, antipathy, and hate, and to fuel division—especially within the Church, and between people of this world and the answer that can only be found in You Jesus.
Help us Holy Spirit to be constantly mindful that there is always a spiritual enemy element (either Satan, our flesh, sin, or the world) at play in every situation. Help us Holy Spirit to be constantly mindful that even “though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards. For the weapons of our warfare are not [of the physical] but [spiritual,] mighty in God” (2Cor. 10:3-4).
Father, we stand with David in Psalm 140:8 and we pray,
“Do not grant, O LORD, the desires of the [enemy]; do not further [the enemy’s] wicked scheme, lest they be exalted.”
Holy Yahweh, our Covenant God, our Shalom, we implore You to glorify Yourself in the lives of these families and through how Your Church responds to these tragedies of loss and deep hurt within these families and communities. Holy Spirit, please intercede on their behalf according to the will of the Father.
We thank You God for the privilege of prayer afforded to us because of Jesus. We pray that You have heard this prayer on high because it is in accordance with Your will. And it is in the name of Jesus that we bring all of this before You LORD God.
July 12, 2016