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A Post 9/11 Prayer

Probably like you, the killing of Osama bin Laden stirred within me many memories of 9/11.  I remember our son calling from Washington D. C. to tell us he saw smoke rising up from the Pentagon.  I remember feelings of helplessness watching jets crash into buildings, and people jumping from the upper floors.   I remember getting up in the middle of the night to turn on the news to see if anything more had happened while I had tossed and turned in bed.

The years since 9/11 have felt like an open wound that just won’t heal.  I admit that I still gasp when I see a jet coming in low over the city.  I warily watch fellow passengers on my flight.  And I try to say “I love you,” more often.  A lot of things have changed since 9/11, and a lot of things haven’t.The Barna Research Group is an independent marketing research company that studies cultural trends related to values, beliefs, and behaviors.

The Barna Group examined data from nine national surveys involving interviews with more than 8,600 adults conducted right after 9/11, and at regular intervals since then.  Barna has been looking for what had changed for Americans since 9/11, and what hadn’t changed.

Not surprisingly the surveys reported a significant spike in people’s concern about the future.  People reported feeling more anxious and fearful, more pessimistic about the future.  With that, there was a surge in church attendance right after 9/11, and the sale of Bibles soared.

From the various surveys, Barna concluded that “after the attack, millions of nominally churched or generally irreligious Americans were desperately seeking something that would restore stability and a sense of meaning to life. Fortunately, many of them turned to the church. Unfortunately, few of them experienced anything that was sufficiently life-changing to capture their attention and their allegiance.

“The surveys showed the most startling shift in Americans post 9/11 to be in people’s views about moral absolutes and truth.  Given the horrendous nature of the evil committed that day, one might have expected Americans to be convinced about the reality of good and evil.  But the research shows just the opposite.

In 2000, almost four out of ten adults (38%) said that there were absolute moral truths that do not change according to circumstances.  But in surveys since, just two out of ten adults (22%) said that they believed in the existence of moral absolutes, and moral good and evil.  When people were asked the source of their moral principles or standards, only 13% cited the Bible.  The most common source of guidance regarding moral decisions by Americans:  feelings (25%).

I think that Newton’s “First Law of Motion” might apply here; that a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.  Spiritually speaking, unless acted upon by an outside force, our nation will tend to continue in the direction it is going.  And that’s why I’m devoting more time to prayer, post 9/11.

Last night I got out of bed, went to another room, and prayed for our nation and our posterity.  I thought that The Lord’s Prayer was a good way to start.   It is a short prayer, to the point, but just what we sorely need.  Here is the most important prayer in the world, by the most important person in the world, asking for the most important thing in the world:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”

For the Jews of biblical times, to speak of the “name” of God was a reverential way of speaking about God.  They regarded God as so holy, so transcendent, that they would not even speak his name, “Yahweh” or “Elohim.”   They would instead say, Ha Shem, “The Name,” when they wanted to speak of God.   Thus Jesus instructed his followers to pray that God’s name, or God, be hallowed.

We don’t normally use the word “hallowed,” in the course of our everyday conversation, much less prayer.   To our ears, ‘Hallowed’ carries an accent of King James English.  But “hallow,” means “to make holy,” “to set apart,” “to hold in reverence and awe.”

But to pray that God hallow his name seems as redundant as to pray that an Arizona summer be hot!   God is already holy!  The seraphim and angels sing day and night around the throne, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

Yes, God is reverenced and held in awe in heaven, but not here on earth.  Our nation treats wealth as holy, and fame, success, and pleasure as holy, but not God.  So the most important prayer that you and I pray, is for the most important person in the world, to do the most important thing in the world – that is, to cause his name to be hallowed; for God to be reverenced and held in highest awe among us.  That God not be taken lightly, that his Word not be trifled with.  May God be known for who he is, as the holy one whose glory fills the earth!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
Psalm 33:12

Let Him easter in you–Tim Smith

Photo by final gather

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