Praying on 9/11

Posted on August 31, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

In a few days America and the world will be observing the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country which occurred September 11, 2001. Already the media is focusing our attention on the tragic events of that day when planes were hijacked, flown into the world trade center and the Pentagon and almost 3,000 Americans were killed.

Families still grieve the loss of loved ones. We celebrate the heroic deeds of firefighters and policemen responding to the disaster and counted among many of the fatalities. Our country and our lives were changed, never to be the same again. Some reflected that we were suddenly effected by what is common in the rest of the world which experiences violence, chaos and turmoil on a daily basis. The last decade has been characterized by strained international relations and military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. We find ourselves embroiled in a global battle against an elusive terrorist enemy. The paranoia is evident to any air traveler subjected to the security precautions of TSA.

This anniversary will be a time to remember the victims of 9/11 and pray for the surviving families. It is an appropriate time to renew patriotic devotion to the principles of freedom we represent in a world of oppression and injustice. It is an occasion for commitment to vigilance against those who threaten our prosperity and way of life.

September 11, is on Sunday this year. The anniversary will receive the attention of government officials and be hyped in editorials and newscasts, but how will churches respond? Will we simply ignore it as we move through the usual format of worship on Sunday morning? Will our prayers reflect the typical self-centered focus as we pray for our safety, our security, our protection and the lasting impact on our citizens and families? Or will memory of these tragic events and their aftermath remind us to pray for those who perpetrated the attacks and the masses of people in bondage to a perverted religious philosophy that would justify the destruction of life?

Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 in saying, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). Is it? He told us to pray for our enemies. But how often do we pray for the nations and peoples of the world who do not know Jesus. It is not unlikely that 9/11 will serve to renew a vengeful spirit on the part of many people. It is likely to stimulate a sense of hatred, not just toward an element of radical fanatics but toward Muslims in general. But should it not be a time when Christians unite in their prayers for this massive population segment that needs to know Jesus and be drawn into the kingdom?

What if generations of Christians throughout history had been obedient to our Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations? What if we, in love, had been faithful to proclaim the way of truth to those holding an adversarial religious worldview? What if Arabs and Israelis had come to know Jesus as the Prince of Peace? What if Saudis, Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians had come to know Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords? What a difference it would have made in our world. Perhaps 9/11 would never have occurred.

Rather than judging Muslims vindictively as a threat and an enemy, we should recognize that these are people for whom Jesus died. But how are they to know God’s love and be open to receive the salvation He has provided unless they see His love in us? Let us pray on September 11 for more than one billion Muslims to be drawn into God’s kingdom. Let this be a time to renew our commitment to pray for them, to seek relationships of understanding with Muslim neighbors in our own communities and that we would be faithful to extend our witness among them, even to the ends of the earth.

Several resources are available for churches to use on September 11 and beyond. The International Mission Board has provided a podcast and other prayer resources on the web site The Zwemer Center for Muslims Studies at Columbia International University has produced a brief downloadable podcast for the use of churches at www.prayon911.comI am hosting this resource, entitled “Moving from Fear to Faith” which includes appeals to prayer by David Platt, John Piper, Steve Richardson, Robertson McQuilkin and others.

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