Tragedy Hits Home
I woke up
at 3:30 in the morning on September 11, 2001, with a deep feeling
of dread, overwhelming sadness, and suffocating oppression. It was so heavy on
me that it felt like the weight of the world. At first I thought something
terrible must have happened or that someone had died. I’d awakened with a
similar feeling several years before on the morning after the sudden tragic
death of a close friend. Yet I don’t even recall that feeling being as
strong as what I was experiencing at this particular moment. But to my
knowledge no one had died and nothing terrible had happened.
realized I needed to pray, but I didn’t know exactly what to pray about.
So I started with praying for each of my children and my husband. I knew they
were safe in their beds at that time, but I thought perhaps there was something
looming out ahead that I should pray about in advance. I didn’t have any
clear leading about that, so I moved on to other loved ones. I prayed for my
dad, sister, brothers-and-sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles. I
prayed for friends one by one and each of their family members. I prayed for
myself. Was the trip I was going to be
taking out of the country something to be concerned about? Still no
relief. Still no answer. Still no peace.
something terrible happened that I don’t know about?” I asked God.
“Is something bad about to
happen? What is this heavy oppression, Lord?”
still no answer, so I kept on praying as the Spirit led. It was quite some time
before I was finally able to fall asleep again. As a result, I slept much later
than usual. I didn’t even hear my husband, Michael, get up and make
coffee in the kitchen. Shortly after 9:00 A.M.he burst into the bedroom and woke me
from a deep sleep.
you have to get up and see this,” he said as he grabbed the remote from
the small table on the other side of the bedroom and turned on the TV.
airplane hit one of the World Trade Center towers, and as I was
watching the news coverage, another plane ran right into the other
tower,” he urgently explained. “They are both on fire.”
God, help us,” I said as I got up and moved to where I could see the
television more clearly. What he described was being replayed at that very
moment. The sight was sickening and shocking, almost too horrible to believed.
help the people in these buildings,” Michael and I prayed together in
desperation. “Save everyone who is still alive. Rescue those in the upper
floors who have no way out. Help them to evacuate the lower
glued to the television, paralyzed by the horror of what we saw.
flashed back to the last time I stood in front of these same buildings. I
remembered looking up at their mammoth stature and being struck with how solid
and breathtakingly beautiful they were.
Those towers are girded about with steel, I
thought as I continued to watch the television.
They withstood that last enormous bombing at the site of their very foundation.
Surely they will hold now. If the fires can be confined to the upper floors
then certainly the floors below will be spared.
continued to pray as the tragedy kept unfolding. The news reported another
jetliner had crashed into the Pentagon. There were more deaths and more
destruction. It was clear by that time that America was under
attack and the plan was to destroy as many people and high-profile landmarks as
possible using fuel-heavy aircraft as bombs.
God, put a stop to this evil destruction,” we prayed in desperation.
“End this attack on our country. If there are more planes headed for
other targets, stop them immediately. Halt this onslaught of terror. Protect
President Bush. Hide him in Your shadow, Lord, where no weapon formed against
his life will prosper. Give him wisdom to make quick decisions.”
horrifying as all these events were, nothing in our worst nightmare or wildest
thoughts prepared us for what we witnessed next, when suddenly one of the
enormous 110-story World Trade Center towers collapsed completely
to the ground in a heap of burning rubble. Thousands of people who had not
already died in the fire and smoke of the upper floors were now carried to
their deaths. The unimaginable horror was impossible to believe. We sat frozen
in shock, stricken by the overwhelming magnitude of this unfathomable
can’t be happening,” I cried as we sat in stunned silence, watching
it over and over. “Oh Lord, save anyone who might still be alive.”
then notified by a news report that another aircraft had crashed outside of Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania. And in Washington, D.C., part of the Pentagon had collapsed.
More unsuspecting people met a violent death.
later the other World Trade Center tower collapsed like its twin
in a burning, billowing, blinding heap of rubble. Thousands more lives were
lost. We and the nation watched the events again and again, as if by doing so
we could make ourselves comprehend them. But it was a tragedy beyond
comprehension. Through our tears and shock we tried to get our arms around the
enormity of it all, but it was just too big. We hoped to wake up from this
nightmare. But we never did. We had awakened toa nightmare instead. And this nightmare was just beginning.
for signs of hope and kept praying that by some miracle people were still alive
in the rubble or in the mall under ground. “Lord, keep those people alive
until rescue workers can get to them,” I prayed over and over.
news report informed us that the four crashed planes had been hijacked
commercial jetliners. Each one had passengerson them. It was another devastating realization that more
unsuspecting, innocent people had been killed in a most brutal and terrifying
the news that hundreds of firefighters and police officers were lost in the
collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Hundreds! Hundreds of brave, heroic men
and women lost their lives trying to save the lives of others. Was there no end
to bad news on this day? The grief was unbearable. It felt like the weight of
weight of the world!
moment, I remembered awakening in the middle of the night with the same
terrible, oppressive feeling. And suddenly I realized what that was all about.
Lord, You were calling me to pray for our country, but I didn’t get
it,” I said. I prayed for myself and my loved ones, but I didn’t
think to pray for my country. I had learned years ago the importance of praying
for the nation’s leaders, especially the president of the United
States. I had been praying fervently for President George W. Bush from the
time he was elected because I had this strong, unshakeable, undeniable feeling
that he would be the target of a would-be assassin. My prayer group, the women
who meet weekly in my home, felt that way too, and so we faithfully prayed for
his protection each time we were together. But never did we think to pray about
a terrorist attack on our land. That possibility just seemed too remote.
days that followed, the nation woke up each morning with heavy hearts. But as
the initial paralysis of grief wore off, we became determined to do something
about the forces of evil that had caused this destruction so that they could
never do such a thing to anyone again. We rallied behind our president,
confident that he was the right man at the right time. His compassion and
unflinching determination to bring the perpetrators to justice gave us
strength. And he had by his side many gifted, knowledgeable, godly, and wise
men and women who were capable of getting the job done.
declared war on those responsible for this horrible act. But it would be a war
like no other. There were no boundary lines for the enemy who hid and preyed on
the helpless and innocent. The thousands of lives that were destroyed on
September 11 were not soldiers on a battlefield. They were civilians who said
goodbye to their loved ones that morning, never dreaming it would be for the
last time. They were fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and
daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, and
friends who would never come home again.
were numbers of children left without a father or mother to love them. There
were mothers and fathers without the son or daughter they had sacrificed their
lives to raise. Brothers, sisters, family members, loved ones, friends, valued
acquaintances, coworkers, employers, employees, business partners and
associates were now forever bereft of the people who gave their lives meaning.
As we heard each new heartbreaking story of tragic loss we cried all over
again. We mourned with those who mourned. We tried to have hope along with
those who still hoped their loved ones would be found. People everywhere
extended themselves to do whatever they could to help. But whatever we did
never seemed like enough. The loss was too great. The destruction too massive.
the many horrific aspects of that tragic day, it seems like the moment the
first World Trade Center building fell something fell in our
hearts as well. It was the end of an era. The things in life we thought could
never fall did. And something fell in us too.
realized how desperately we needed God. Prayer suddenly became the right thing
to do. God got invited back into our public gathering places. People saw that
they couldn’t handle life without Him after all. There were many
gutwrenching questions about why this had happened, and people looked to God
for the answers. They found prayer was an answer that had been forgotten for
afterwards, I couldn’t stop crying over the senseless loss of life, and
for the families and loved ones who grieved for them. Indeed all Americans
cried together. If God really does keep our tears in a bottle, as the psalmist
suggests (Psalm 56:8), then heaven must have been flooded in the aftermath of
that morning. Our flow of combined tears became a mighty river of unity like we
had not known before in this country. It flowed out to others, even to
strangers on the streets. And it flowed back to us in the outpouring of love
and compassion from people all over the world who shared our grief.
witnessed these events will never be the same. We witnessed the unimaginable.
We were exposed to incomprehensible evil. We watched thousands of people
disintegrate in front of our eyes. We may have gone back about our business
because we had to, but it will never be business as usual again. We look at
each other differently now. With new eyes of appreciation. With new eyes of
suspicion. We may have resumed our lives, but our minds contain the knowledge
that something bad could happen at any time. We’ve gone back to building
for tomorrow, but we can’t be certain what tomorrow will bring.
who doubted the existence of evil can’t deny it any longer. They’ve
seen it in action. Even the pictures of ground zero, with the endless smoke
rising over mass destruction, resembled what hell must surely look like. Satan
had left his imprint. His destructive design for our lives was revealed in the
rubble, in the ashes of lives that are no more.
cried our last tear over this horrible event in our nation’s history? I
hope not. Will we get to the point where we can see our flag or hear our
national anthem and forget all it meant and symbolized for us in the days
following September 11? I hope not. Will we take for granted the freedom for
which thousands of brave men and women have given their lives over the years?
Will we again feel so secure that we think we don’t have to look to God
as a nation anymore? I pray not.
our lives return to normal, we must never forget what happened. To remember
will remind us to pray like we have never prayed before. If the memories of
that day can inspire us to become prayer warriors strong enough to turn our
nation toward God, then the thousands of victims of that dark morning will not
have died in vain.
know God have heard His call to pray, and it has awakened in us a whole new
sense of urgency. But it must also broaden our scope. When I heard His call to
pray early that morning, I was only thinking in terms of my own little world.
God wants us to think in terms of praying for our nation and the nations of the
world. Our prayers must not only cover our own land, but they must also reach
around the globe.
Regardinghow to pray, God knows that
“we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit
Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”
(Romans 8:26). In other words, we won’t always know the specifics of what
we need to pray for, but the Holy Spirit will help us. I remember in that
middle-of-the-night prayer session when I didn’t know what more to pray
about, I felt led to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Who knows if the words
“Your will be done on earth” and “deliver us from evil”
might have saved even one person’s life that day? The Holy Spirit knows
and will lead us when we ask Him to.
As to why
I didn’t hear from God about specifics of how to pray on that early
morning when I was awakened out of a sound sleep, I believe the answer lies in
the fact that I had not been praying along those lines in recent months. Even
though I had been taught how to intercede for my country, I had fallen out of
the habit. And there was good reason for that. I had been dealing with a
life-threatening illness and though I had nearly recovered physically, I was
still trying to recover my life, which had gone speeding on by me during my
long convalescence. I had not been asking God to show me how to pray for my
country and its leaders. My mind and heart were not there and so I was not
sensitive to that.
addition to the specific prayers in a moment of great need, there are also
prayers we can pray on a regular basis that will cover our nation and help us
to become the intercessors God is calling us to be. And if we join together in
these prayers, we can become a powerful praying nation. This book is about
there is a hole in the heart of our nation that only God can fill. We have a
pain in our souls that only God can heal. Our country is weighed down with a
burden of grief that only God can carry. He wants to do all that and more. God
wants to bring new life where there has been death. He wants to bring
restoration where there has been loss. He wants to not only raise us up again,
but to take us to new heights. But that can only happen if we turn to Him with
a humble and pure heart, seek His face and His ways, and pray like never before.
do all that so we can unite this country in prayer and see the power of God
move on our behalf. Let’s truly become one nation under God, indivisible.
Let’s ask for the peace of God to bless our land and the nations of the
world. And let us continue in prayer to fight for liberty and justice for all.
I pray for the people of this country to find healing for the memories of the
terrible tragedies that have happened in our land. I pray especially for those
who have lost loved ones. Give them a greater sense of Your presence so that
they may find Your comfort. Provide for their every need. As we weep with those
who weep, help us to bear their burdens in prayer. Pour Your healing love over
them so they will know Your peace. As we recover from this tragic time, help us
not forget why we must “pray without ceasing” for our nation to be
protected (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Help us to remember that the only things in
this world that are indestructible are You and Your Word.
tells us that there will be cataclysmic events that will happen in the world,
but I pray that there will be an end to disasters or tragedies in our nation.
Even if those kinds of events do occur again, I pray that You would protect us
in the midst of them. Turn the heart of our nation toward You. Awaken in us a
new realization of our need for Your guidance and protection. Give us a new
understanding of what is really important. Comfort us in our affliction with
the life of Your Word (Psalm 119:50). Your Word says that You have “borne
our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). Bear our grief now and
make it count for something. Carry our sorrow and turn it into good for future
generations. Put gladness in our hearts once again.
teach me how to be a powerful intercessor for my nation and the nations of the
world. Help me to pray consistently and with great understanding.
Give me revelation and insight that guides my prayers so that I may pray more
effectively. Help the believers of this nation to rise up together and learn to
pray in power. Enable us to teach our children how to pray for their nation as
well, and help us all to understand what it means to be a nation whose God is
the Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray.