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  • Debbie Dougherty

Thoughts and Prayers? I Have Thoughts about Prayers.

An image of a person rendered in shades of purple. They look melancholy.
Please pray better prayers. Picture by child artist Freya Clark

William, a six year old child, is now the only remaining member of his family. They were all shot. With a gun. Lots of people were shot the other day. Lots of people died. Many more were permanently disabled and will live in forever-pain, pain that will never end. Ever. Why? Well, they decided to go shopping while in Texas, which has become an increasingly risky endeavor.


Along with the deaths has come the inevitable battle over whether or not we should send thoughts and prayers. Prayers work, claims Representative Keith Self. Do prayers work? As a religious person, I believe in the power of prayer. Yet here we are, 24 years after we first started sending thoughts and prayers, and things have gotten worse. Now the shooters have moved to other targets that they perceive as low risk/high reward, like grocery stores, churches, and outlet malls.

So maybe Thoughts and Prayers are not working? At least not the ones we have been sending.


Wrong Prayers? Wrong Thoughts?

Maybe we have been praying the wrong prayers. The standard prayer appears to be that families recover and move past their grief as soon as possible. Something like this “keep the victims and their families in your warm embrace as they struggle through their terrible loss.” It is a nice prayer, but it is an after-the-violence-has-happened sort of prayer. Maybe that prayer has worked (I doubt it, but maybe). Maybe God has been holding the families in their warm embrace, tears flowing down their face over the unending violence.


As I have read story after story about the aftermath of gun violence over the last week, I asked myself, what kind of prayers would God like to receive? Does he want more after-the-violence-prayers? Or would he prefer before-the-violence prayers. You know, the kind that are designed to prevent violence?


Yes, we need to pray a different kind of prayer. Here are my thoughts about prayers.


Pray that our Government Focuses on the Entire 2nd Amendment

In the United States, gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Our constitution is the document that is the foundation of the American democracy, so it is pivotal to how our government works. Or it is supposed to be.


The second Amendment is literally ONE SENTENCE LONG. Here it is:



Let’s dig in. The Second Amendment pairs a right with a responsibility. We have the Right to Bear Arms because we have a Responsibility to Maintain a Well Regulated Militia. This means we should maintain weapons in the event that we need them to protect our constitutional democracy. Yet, we also have a responsibility to regulate how those weapons are distributed and used.


It seems that our government’s focus has shifted exclusively to the right to bear arms while more or less ignoring the work of regulating those arms. In places like Texas and Missouri, there are few regulations on firearms, so people can pack whatever they want, whenever they want, and wherever they want.


Growing up in an agriculture family, we always had guns. Always. Guns were tools, and those tools were regulated:

  • Every member of our family was trained in how to use firearms.

  • We were also trained that guns were NOT for shooting people. Children were punished if they pretended to shoot people, even when we were playing Cops and Robbers or Army Guy. We were not allowed to shoot people, not even pretend people.

  • Every person in our family had gun safety training, both the formal type as well as the day to day conversation type. We learned that guns are tools. Guns are not to kill people. Guns are to be treated with safety and respect.

Do you see, politicians? In our family we engaged in the right to bear arms, but also carefully regulated both the people and the guns. Of course, this was one family, and your job should not be regulating family culture, but you can regulate gun use. You really can. So here is my prayer:


“Please God, in this beautiful country with its thoughtful and brilliant founders, there is a constitution that both gives and requires. Dear heavenly one, move our leaders to read and understand the entire sentence that comprises our second amendment so that they can do the work for which they were elected or appointed. Let them do the work of pairing the rights and the responsibilities of gun ownership so that no more children are killed."


Pray that the Government Prioritizes Research on Gun Violence.

Did you know that for 20 years, there was a law that prevented research on gun violence? Yep. It is true. And now that the gun violence has gotten so pervasive, we know next to nothing about the causes. That leaves us with conjecture. Is it caused by mental health? Is it caused by young men with no emotional control? Is it caused by gun culture? Is it caused by lack of religious convictions? Lack of gun safety training? Precarious masculinity? Counterproductive policies? I don’t know. Maybe. The fact is, we are all just sitting around throwing out our best guesses because our best source of knowledge, our scientific machinery, has been sidelined.


Research can help remove the guesswork. Take Sarah Jane Blithe and Jennifer L. Lanterman ethnographic research exploring gun culture in America. Guess what they discovered. We do not have a single monolithic gun culture. Instead, we have multiple gun cultures that co-exist. Gun Owners can easily move between these cultures so as to avoid confronting problems that emerge from one particular group. They suggest a few practical applications, including my favorite:


Instead of framing policy discussions as polarized conversations between gun control and gun culture, identifying the beliefs,values, and goals of individual gun culture members can help policy-makers push legislation forward that represents the myriad interests of gun owners rather than the interests of a single, mythical, gun culture.

See? Information can be useful in developing a plan to address gun violence. There is so much research that needs to be accomplished so that we can have a reasoned conversation about gun violence. We need research from criminology, sociology, anthropology, communication, mass communication, and health professions, and so much more. We need the full attention across disciplines and methodologies so we can understand what is happening, why it is happening, and how best to address it. So my prayer:


“Please God, give the government the wisdom to prioritize research on gun violence so that we can discover real facts instead of pretending like we have the answers. After all, you gave us different forms of science so we can be good decision makers. Help our leaders understand these ways of knowing so that we can all engage in finding solutions.”


Thoughts and Prayers to End Performative Politics.

And finally, I think we can generally agree that we need to reform politics. The stonewalling, gaslighting, name calling, and fear mongering must end. My final prayer.


Dearest God almighty above, our leaders have resorted to performative politics in response to the violence that causes you so much torture and pain. As you know, Lord, our politicians are not particularly good actors, and should leave the performative profession to those who have skills in that area, like Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, and Aamir Khan. Please help elected leaders actually lead us down a new path toward politics that makes a real difference. In your loving name we pray. Amen.


P.S. Oh yeah, God help your people recognize those who act verses those who perform. That way maybe we can make better choices.


P.S.S. Oh, and Dear God, can you please answer our prayers quickly. I think we can all agree that if you answer our before-the-violence prayers, then we won't have to send you so many after-the-violence-prayers.



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jdnaert
09 mai 2023
Noté 5 étoiles sur 5.

Great perspective! - JN

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Debbie Dougherty
Debbie Dougherty
09 mai 2023
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Thanks!

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