A group gathers for prayer at a memorial in Las Vegas for victims of a mass shooting.

Shouldn’t praying
the Lord’s Prayer
make a difference?

February 12, 2018

Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus sent his disciples out twice to bring healing and hope to strangers in his name before he taught them to pray the Lord’s Prayer. The disciples went to the places Jesus wanted them to go, took nothing but their faith and were dependent on people they did not know.

The disciples returned, celebrating with great joy, because they discovered they had power to do wonders in Jesus’ name. By the time they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, their highest priority was to continue doing this “kingdom-coming” work, bringing healing and hope to people.

The prayer that Jesus taught his followers was designed to empower them, and us, to do his will in the world. If we pray this prayer with sincere hearts and live like we want what we pray for to happen, it has the power to revolutionize both Christianity and the world. Hence the title of my latest book, “The Revolutionary Power of the Lord’s Prayer.”

After Stephen Paddock’s Oct. 1 shooting rampage in Las Vegas, I had to ask myself whether Christianity could have made a difference. If we prayed the Lord’s Prayer with the understanding that it is meant to empower us to do God’s will in the world, might his life have been different? What might our country be like today if, from the time we first landed on Plymouth Rock, Christians prioritized the kingdom-coming work of bringing God’s love, healing and hope in Jesus’ name?

The United States’ booming firearms and ammunitions industry made it easy for Paddock to have at least 20 firearms — including an automating “bump stock” — in his hotel room, as well as loads of firearms, explosives and ammunition in his home. The industry is so booming that it had a $51.3 billion impact on our economy in 2016.

We set the stage for Paddock to become an avid gambler, with a gambling industry that had a $240 billion economic impact on our country in 2013. Our societal norm leans toward “silo” behavior — ignoring people we don’t know — which allowed Paddock to carry out his plan in the middle of a crowded city. His girlfriend reported that he seemed to be deteriorating both physically and mentally in the months before the shooting. Apparently, no one paid enough attention to be alarmed.

Present-day Christians make up roughly 75 percent of the U.S. population. We worship Jesus, who we call the Prince of Peace. What if, since our founding days in this country, we had normalized the idea that carrying around weapons that kill people is anathema for both civilians and law enforcement? What if we — who are taught that we cannot worship both money and God — did not feed the thriving gambling industry? What if Christians made “Good Samaritan” behavior — loving and caring for our neighbors — the norm in our communities?

I don’t think Christians are responsible for Paddock’s rampage. I do think that not enough Christians take Jesus’ teachings seriously enough. Love — not violence and greed — should shape our lives and communities. If we had gotten this part straight from the beginning in this country, I believe we would have fewer weapons and less gambling. And we would pay lots more attention to the needs of others.

Yes, I do believe this kind of beloved community could have made a difference for Stephen Paddock. The good news is that we still have time to work out this scenario for our future generations. Praying the Lord’s Prayer with sincere hearts and living like we want and expect what we pray for to happen is a good beginning.

The Rev. Dr. Alice Burnette Greene is interim minister at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., and author of “The Revolutionary Power of the Lord’s Prayer” (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2017).

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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