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We have become familiar with murder.

Do you remember how you felt the first time you heard reports of a mass shooting?  Do you remember the shock you felt?  The fear?  The anger?  That was a natural and perhaps even a God-sent reaction.  When something terrible happens, we should be upset. 

Sadly, our reactions these days aren’t quite as simple.  Death by gunfire is now a regular phenomenon in the United States, and mass shootings have become almost a fact of life.  There are children today who view shelter in place drills as a routine thing.  As adults, news of a mass shooting now often triggers within us a desire to take sides in another round of the same old debate.  We want to figure out who or what to blame.  Politicians, special interest groups, video game developers, social media, parents, school systems, and many others receive blame from people all across the idealogical spectrum.  We yell, we get upset, we grieve, and we move on. 

In scripture, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31 NIV).  These commands are simple, but to follow them in a world of division, discord, and desensitization isn’t easy.  How do we love our God and our neighbor when gun deaths occur so frequently and solutions seem so hard for us to agree upon?  How do we ensure that our children and grandchildren do not have to live in a world like this one, a world where murder has become familiar?

This prayer challenge is designed to help you answer that question for yourself.  If you are reading this, it is because you believe in the power of prayer.  You believe that God hears our prayers, and that God responds to our prayers by offering us guidance, wisdom, and discernment.  Over the next five weeks, choose one or more of the prayers assigned to each week, and pray it however, whenever, and wherever you wish to. 

This prayer challenge is not intended to be partisan.  Guns are tools, and like all tools, guns cause great harm when they come into the hands of the wrong person.  Like many of us, you probably have opinions on how to prevent this harm.  This prayer challenge may confirm your opinions.  It may challenge them.  Either way, regardless of your beliefs, this much should be certain for you: murder is incompatible with God’s love, and we must spread that love in this world. 

Use this prayer challenge to help you discern how to do that.  With each prayer you pray, offer the feelings in your heart to God, and listen as God speaks back to you.  Listen for guidance.  Listen for wisdom.  Listen for a rebuke.  Listen for an affirmation.  Listen for the call to action you will certainly hear.  Listen for hope.  Just speak to God, and listen as God speaks back.  

Good luck in your listening, friend.  And through your listening, may you become an instrument of God’s peace.

Week 1 – For Those We Have Lost

Scripture Reading: Psalm 23 (KJV)

You are invited to read and reflect on what God is saying to you through this passage today as we consider the issue of gun violence in the United States. 

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Holy and righteous God, we come to you today with broken and grieving hearts.  We lift prayers up to you from our fallen, broken world.  We have tasted and seen the fruits of this brokenness, oh God, fruits planted by bullets and watered in blood.  Blood from the old and wise, who will no longer share their wisdom with others.  Blood from the young and hopeful, who will never chase their dreams nor find their callings.  Blood from children, who walked into school with light up sneakers and superhero lunch boxes, and never came home again.  Blood from mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.  Everywhere we turn, we behold the spectacle of murder and death, which has come to us through the barrel of a gun. 

Comfort our grieving hearts, God of ages.  In a world of hurt,  we ask you to be a healing presence.  Stand beside us as we weep over the carnage that has come to our doorsteps.   For those who mourn, bring them comfort.  For those who despair, bring them hope.  For those dearly departed who have felt the embrace of death, and for those they leave behind, bring the promise of resurrection, brought to us by your son Jesus Christ.  You are the God of the grieving, the God of widows and orphans.  You are the God who stood at Golgotha.  Stand with us now in our pain.   In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

– Daniel Guenther, Smith Memorial UMC – 

Thought for the Week

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Irving

Week 2 – For Those Who Committed Evil

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

You are invited to read and reflect on what God is saying to you through this passage today as we consider the issue of gun violence in the United States. 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Gentle and loving God, you have taught us that even the unredeemable can be redeemed, that every Saul can become a Paul, that every lost soul can once again be found. 

And yet, we struggle to trust in this, oh God.  We struggle because we have seen such terrible evil, so many terrible acts committed simply by squeezing a trigger, that we doubt even your capacity to repair their damaged souls.  We struggle, too, because we cannot always see or understand your ways.  We hear you tell us to forgive, and with rage in our hearts, we demand to know why.  You speak of love.  We demand retribution.  You speak of mercy.  We demand punishment.  You speak of healing.  We demand that one wound be repaid with another. 

Teach us to follow in your ways, oh God.  Teach us to remember the freedom in forgiveness, the power of redemption, and the hope you have given even the most wretched of us through the cross.  Help us to see your hands at work, as you knit this ragged and torn human fabric back together, one lost soul at a time.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. 

– Daniel Guenther, Smith Memorial UMC –

Thought for the Week

“Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offence up against the offender. Forgiveness is an expression of love.”

– Gary Chapman –

Week 3 – For those who responded

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:6-8 (NIV)

You are invited to read and reflect on what God is saying to you through this passage today as we consider the issue of gun violence in the United States. 

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”


Lord Jesus, we reach out to you now as the one who came down from on high to be with us.  You have taught us the meaning of service and of sacrifice.  You have shown us the power of action, of prophetic challenge, and of a gentle, loving touch.  You have shown us that, even in darkness, there are many ways to display light.

Help us to find that light, Lord Jesus.  Help us to give thanks for it when it appears.  For those who defend us from the scourge of gun violence, oh Jesus, we give thanks.  For those who come to heal the physical, mental, and spiritual wounds that guns cause, oh Jesus, we give thanks.  For those who challenge us to be better, oh Jesus, we give thanks.  Help us to be inspired by their example, that we might go out and seek to make our communities better, safer, healthier, and happier places.  In Your holy name we pray, amen. 

– Daniel Guenther, Smith Memorial UMC –

Thought for the Week

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

– Fred Rogers –

Week 4 – For Those In Power

Scripture Reading: Amos 5:21-24 (NIV)

You are invited to read and reflect on what God is saying to you through this passage today as we consider the issue of gun violence in the United States. 


“I hate, I despise your feasts,

    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.


Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,

    I will not accept them;

and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,

    I will not look upon them.


Take away from me the noise of your songs;

    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.


But let justice roll down like waters,

    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


Holy God, we come before you today on behalf of those in authority.  We know that to be a leader, regardless of party or persuasion, is a heavy burden.  To slip into partisanship and name-calling is easy.  To lead, to make actual change, to step forward and inspire others to work for a common cause higher than ourselves is a hard and holy thing, and we are only human beings. 

As we confront the scourge of gun violence, holy God, inspire in our authority figures now a desire to choose the way not of self interest, but of true leadership.  Equip them with humility to discern your wishes for them.  Equip them with the courage to act upon those wishes and not upon that human desire for power and success that so often corrupts our hearts.  Teach them to be faithful to you, not just in their private lives, but as those entrusted with the safety and welfare of their people.  Be with them, and guide them towards the path of true leadership.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

– Daniel Guenther, Smith Memorial UMC –

Thought for the Week

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

– Max DePree –

Week 5 – For us, the Disciples

Scripture Reading: Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)

You are invited to read and reflect on what God is saying to you through this passage today as we consider the issue of gun violence in the United States. 

With what shall I come before the Lord

    and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

    with calves a year old?


Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?


He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

    And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God.


God of action, we stand before you today as called people.  You have shown us your love time and again throughout our lives.  You have inspired us to serve, and you have consoled us in grief.  You are, and have always been, our faithful God, who always acts on our behalf, regardless of our needs.

Today, great God, we pray that you might stir within us a desire to act as well.  Each day, people use guns to kill each other, and each day, your land is watered with the blood of innocents.  Each day, one of your children takes the life of another of your children, and each day, you stand from on high as fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, weep over loss. 

Do not allow us to become comfortable in this, oh God.  Drive us to action to stand against suffering and evil. Help us to be agents of change, of healing, and of hope, in this broken and bleeding world.  We know what you require of us, holy God.  It is nothing more, and nothing less, than to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you.  Help us to join you in this holy struggle.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. 

Thought for the Week

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

– Dale Carnegie –

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