At the time of this writing, 59 people attending an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, have died at the hands of a murderous psychopath, an otherwise obscure resident of Mesquite, Nevada, who fired rounds from several different rifles into a crowd with the intent to murder as many people as possible.
The motivation is unknown, any other accomplices (beyond the one female companion who authorities have since picked up) is unknown, and any possible link to terrorist cells, both foreign and domestic, is unknown. There’s only one thing for sure:
October 1, 2017 is, now, officially the date of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
By the time the Las Vegas S.W.A.T team tore down the door of his hotel room, he was already dead, most likely from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but were he alive today, the knowledge that he set one of the most heinous “records” in existence would most likely leave him with a sense of pride.
A horrific, non-sensical, evil, despicable pride, but for someone who opens fire on 22,000 people that he most likely has never met before, it falls right in line with his character.
This is not the first time someone has committed a murderous act so atrocious. We don’t have to reach too far back in our own history to remember names like James Holmes (Aurora, Colorado movie theater), Adam Lanza (Sandy), and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine).
Now, this shooter’s name will be etched into our collective memories right alongside them.
I don’t know where you reside, but here in Texas, we are over 1,200 miles away from the scene of this ghastly crime, and it’s hard to know how to react, and, more importantly, how to help.
I’m not the only one with this problem. As I scrolled down my Facebook feed Monday, I noticed one hashtag popping up repeatedly:
Some people look at that and scoff. “Pray? Is that all you can do is…pray?”
Unfortunately that statement doesn’t just come from people of the world, but from self-proclaimed Christians who have forgotten about the power of prayer. Men and women who need to be reminded of the potency of Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18 (also referenced in James 5). People who need to reread 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
So despite not being in the immediate vicinity to offer aid to the victims and comb through files to search for a possible motivation for the attack, we who are miles away from Las Vegas still have access to one of the strongest tools in our spiritual toolbox.
Here’s my three prayers for Vegas. You may have three completely different ones, but these are the ones that come to my mind.
I Pray That This Even Turns One Person Towards God
Allow me to be clear here: there is absolutely nothing good about a madman opening up fire on a group of people, killing 59 of them and wounding over 500 more. It’s the act of a desperate coward who would rather end other people’s lives than find the meaning for his.
There is no respect for someone like that, and my heart breaks for the families who were shattered because of the sinfulness of one man’s heart.
I pray for those families desperately.
But I also pray for the people who were either there that night or watching it from afar and thinking to themselves: “that could’ve been me.”
There’s no possible way for us to know where or when the next event like that will occur; the only thing that we know for certain is that as long as this world stands, evil will have a place in this world (Eph. 2:2). And as long as this world stands and there’s evil in this world, we will have to live with the knowledge that our life can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.
Some will argue that this is God’s vengeance on Las Vegas, the town known to so many as “Sin City” for it’s gross immorality and cultural depravity.
I would argue against that point based on one passage: Luke 13:1-5.
In Luke, Jesus refutes the popular claim that the crumble of the tower of Siloam and the murders by Pilate were God’s vengeance on people who were sinners, in essence, punishing them physically for their spiritual condition. Jesus argues that they were no worse than anyone else, but then utters the phrase: “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”
What the tower of Siloam and Vegas have in common is that they both wake us up to two essential truths: (1) the reality of our own mortality, and (2) the need to get our lives right with God.
The second half of Jesus’ discussion (Luke 13:6-9) makes this same claim, as He relays a story about a fig tree that is supposed to be cut down due to a lack of fruit. The gardener puts fertilizer on it, waters it, and gives it every chance to succeed, yet if it still doesn’t, then it is cut down.
Our lives can be seen like that fig tree. We are given every chance to bear fruit for God. We are given opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him and obey Him.
But if we don’t, eventually we will be cut down and thrown into the fire. When that moment comes, however, none of us know.
I Pray That I Will Be As Brave As Some of the People There That Night
I don’t know if you noticed in the first few paragraphs, but I deliberately did not mention the name of the shooter that night. Why? Because his name simply does not merit a mention here.
When you decide to kill 59 people attending an outdoor country music festival, you lose any right to having your name memorialized.
The names that should be remembered are the ones who saved others in the middle of the chaos, not regarding their own safety in a desperate attempt to save as many people as possible.
Sonny Melton, a 29-year-old registered nurse from Big Sandy, Tennessee, who put himself between the shooter and his wife Heather and lost his own life to protect hers.
Jonathan Smith, who continued to enter the kill zone time after time and pulled 30 people to safety, taking bullets to the neck and arm in the process.
Taylor Winston, also 29 years old, and a former U.S. marine who commandeered a pickup truck and transported several people to a local hospital.
These are the people who should be remembered, not some unstable nut-job who was trying to make a name for himself.
I can’t help but look at those people and wonder one simple question: “If I were there, would I have been as brave?”
There’s no way for me, or anyone else who hasn’t been in that type of position to know for certain without being there, but I would like to think that if/when that time comes, I’ll spring into action. I may not though. I may be too fearful for my own life to risk saving others, but as Jesus stated about His own crucifixion in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends..”
A good test of whether or not I will save others in a time of chaos is whether or not I am willing to do that in times of peace. Am I willing to sacrifice my free time to spend a few extra hours with my children? Am I willing to put my ego to the side if it means saving my marriage?
Moreover, if taken on a spiritual level, am I willing to risk my friends or my reputation to help someone else get to Heaven?
I know those are vastly different than running back into a parking lot filled with gunfire, but courage is courage, and if we have not shored ourselves up in times of peace, it could be difficult to have confidence it will magically appear in times of desperation.
Remember, of all the things that Revelation condemns in the last few chapters of its book, “cowardice” is near the top (Rev. 21:8).
I pray that I am not a coward.
I Pray That Jesus Would Come Quickly
No matter which way you take the book of Revelation, the same principle rings true throughout: God wins. It is a book filled with hope, and a book filled with comfort that guides all of us as we navigate the persecutions of this world.
Near the end, however, Jesus lets us know that the trials of this world will soon cease and that He will quickly return to this world. John is not content to merely record Jesus’ statement, but adds on the backend his own commentary: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
No one knows exactly what John went through in his life, but suffice it to say that he saw his fair share of wickedness, and for him, it was enough to make him crave reuniting with his blessed Savior.
Paul shared the same sentiment in Romans 8:18-25, claiming that all of creation “groans” for our adoption into our heavenly home, desperately wanting to shed our souls of this earthly tent and enter into a life of pure bliss.
The description of Heaven in Revelation 21 is quite extraordinary: no tears, no pain, and, most pertinent to our discussion, no death.
Can you imagine that? A place that is not only superior to this world in every imaginable way, but also one that removes every last negative aspect of this life, including death itself.
In Heaven, we will never have to “wake up” to news that 59 people were killed, or that a school of elementary-age kids was attacked, or that a business center in New York City was demolished by a couple of planes.
Can you imagine that?
Compared to this world, Heaven not only sounds beautiful, it sounds idyllic.
I pray that the madness of October 1 will open our eyes to a world where we never have to cry over lost loved ones and mourn the evil in this world. Rather a place where we can join our Savior in a state of pure joy, and where there is no more pain, nor death, nor sorrow, “for the former things have passed away.
Those are my prayers for Vegas. What are yours?Last modified: January 22, 2019