JOPLIN, Mo. —
A few minutes past noon two weeks ago today, a 75-year-old woman from Oklahoma pulled onto the eastbound lanes of Interstate 44, only she was heading west.
She collided head-on with a vehicle in which a dear young friend of mine and her family were passengers. Most of you know about this horrific accident. Many of you have been impacted by it.
Abby is a freshman in college and a graduate of Carl Junction High School. She participated in the choral music program at CJHS, which my wife directs. Abby was highly ranked, both academically and musically.
In the world of high school athletics, there is a state championship game. In the world of high school music, there is an All-State Honor Choir. I remember our time with Abby at the all-state event during her senior year; her excitement, the hours of rehearsal, eating hamburgers, devouring gumbo, a memorable concert.
Late last summer, my wife and I ate lunch with Abby and her boyfriend. We were sending her off to college. We hugged as we parted. She was tearful as she hugged my wife.
You just never know what tomorrow brings. It's not "always the other person," is it? This accident shook my life.
When shaken, it is so easy to launch into prayer without thinking about it. Human nature takes over, and we hastily ask God to do this and that as if God is not already involved, doing what only God can do. The Psalmist reminds us that God goes with us through the valley of death rather than waiting for us on the other side.
Now, if God is already involved, then how am I to pray? Do I ask God to be close to Abby or to do this or that? That's what I want to do, but it's not like asking a parent to come to the aid of a child who has been injured.
Does a parent need to be asked? Does God need our prayers before becoming involved? I hardly think so. God can't possibly be any closer to Abby after I pray than he is before I pray.
We humans need help in this matter of prayer, especially when we have been shaken. Otherwise, we may plunge into nonsensical patterns of prayer that turn God into nothing more than a lackey sent here or there to do our bidding.
It's possible that Jesus understood this when he taught us to pray the following: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done; give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses; deliver us from evil.
Now, this I can readily do.
I pray "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done" in my young friend's life and in mine. As she finds her way through this overwhelming sadness and deep pain, she will face major trials that can threaten faith.
Out of pain and suffering can come good, as many people living in post-tornado Joplin understand. But bad stuff can come just as easily. Out of this experience, God's kind of goodness can work its way into life, leaving faith stronger and the future brighter.
"Give us this day our daily bread," the kind of bread required to sustain faith for the living of these days.
"Forgive us our trespasses," the destructive anger heaped upon the driver of the other car.
"Deliver us from evil," of bitterness, or of a cynicism that can cause us to give up on God and on life.
These are my prayers for you, my young friend.
Feel loved. Life will work again.
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.