It was Friday, November 13th. The time was 10:30pm and there were about twenty-five of us college students, several of whom I had never met, in desks, chairs, and on the floor of a huge lecture hall –fervently praying.
We had been putting away sound equipment from InterVarsity’s first Open Mic Night, an event open to the campus and displayed talents from three different ministries. I received a news notification from the BBC app on my phone which alerted me that there were close to 120 victims in Paris killed in coordinated terrorist attacks. Stunned, I turned to my friend, Victoria Johnson, junior at the College of William and Mary, and immediately she recognized something was wrong. I quickly told her and together we read the bullet points offered by BBC News.
Light-hearts Become Passionate with Prayer
Victoria responded, “What should we do? Should we make an announcement? I hate to break up the happy, light-hearted mood but we need to pray.”
She swiftly moved to the front of the room where she found Connor Clark, senior and IV Large Group Coordinator, and informed him of the dire situation in Paris. Connor spoke up and the hubbub of the room stopped. After everyone’s attention was brought to the front, Victoria made the announcement that Paris was in need of prayer. I gave the details of the attacks and the numbers. It was made clear that whoever needed or wanted to leave had that freedom and there was no obligation to stay.
Immediately though, everyone gathered together at the back right section of Millington 150, an auditorium-style lecture hall. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors alike came together instinctually to pray silently and aloud. We prayed for the families of the victims in Paris, the wounded, the emergency personnel, the politicians and leaders in that region, as well as for the attackers and their families – for all are created in the image of God and no one is too far from the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.
Unity in the Midst of Tragedy
After about 30-40 minutes of spontaneous prayer, the time came to a natural close and Victoria closed us in prayer. No one moved. Several of the faces I looked into had never been at any type of formal “unity gatherings” or worship nights outside of IV Large Group on Friday evenings so this type of prayer gathering must have been new.
Unity, solidarity, and a mutual faith that God hears our prayers demonstrated that truly, a family of believers exists on this campus. It was incredibly beautiful to see a community who didn’t necessarily know one another come together on the sole foundation of a shared love and trust of Jesus Christ and a desire to follow his leadership.
Desperation Turns to Praise
Gently, one sophomore began to strum her guitar, which she had with her because of Open Mic Night. As sincere words of worship drifted from her lips, there was a still, contemplative silence over our small gathering. Soon our voices joined hers as we praised God for who He is and for His sovereignty, grace, and love. We praised God because there was nothing else we could do. We praised God because He is in control and He is worthy. We praised God as a natural overflow of our desperation over the situation in Paris.
After a few songs, she prayed and we slowly went our separate ways, truly having tasted and seen that the Lord is good — even in, and particularly in, the moments when tragedy strikes. The enemy cannot win because the victory is already won by Jesus. The world may shake, the world may shatter. We mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, but we are part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. In the midst of the darkest hours of evil, Christ’s light shines even brighter.
A Prayer for the World
Lord, we are devastated by what has happened in Paris, in Baghdad, in Japan, in Mexico, in Beirut among other places on November 13th/14th, 2015. We are deeply grieved and unable to comprehend the state of sadness that hundreds, if not thousands, of people are facing and will continue to face in the coming days, months, and years. God, we pray for those who have lost their loved ones, including the family members of the attackers. God, we pray for our world leaders – we pray that you give them wisdom and guidance in making decisions that would align with your heart for your people.
Jesus, may your name be proclaimed boldly and profusely. May people become aware of their own brokenness and depravity; and, likewise, may they find hope, peace, love and grace available to all those who call on your name. Father, we love you and we chose to praise you when we don’t understand. Protect us, Lord – but we ask also that your will be done in this world so that your kingdom be established on earth. We ask for whatever it takes for Jesus Christ to be made known and glorified and for people all over the world to turn to you. We pray these things in the holy and powerful name of Jesus Christ, Amen.