Being on Facebook and Twitter immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing, I saw a lot of prayer pledges being sent over the network streams. I sent a few myself. I’m assuming all of the others I saw were as sincere as mine, that, like me, those sending them actually dropped what they were doing to pray for the bombing victims. It was the only thing most of us could do.
In the days and weeks following the bombings, I also saw a lot of criticism of those prayers from atheist and agnostic commentators who feel like such expressions are a waste of time, or an exercise in futility, or complete and utter nonsense, a waste of words and breath meant only to make useless people feel useful but doing nothing that actually matters or makes a difference.
Well, if I may be so bold as to speak on behalf of Oklahoma, I’m here to tell you: it does make a difference.
Of course, there are exceptions, and those for whom it doesn’t matter. Although we’re a thoroughly red state and a major notch in the Bible Belt, we’re still a pretty diverse state and there are those who call Oklahoma their home who don’t believe in or understand prayer. But those folks are the minority here.
By and large, the people of Oklahoma believe in the power of prayer. We believe it can result in miracles, and for those who missed their miracles, it can result in peace and healing and the strength to stand up under the weight of overwhelming grief and loss.
When that massive tornado first showed up on the news yesterday, still in progress and bearing down on Moore, people all across the nation stopped what they were doing and lifted up Oklahoma in prayer. And let me tell you, while that storm raged a second storm cell was making its way through my neck of the woods, across several small towns north of Tulsa. That storm carried with it a tornado warning and showed all the signs of being as potentially deadly as the one in central Oklahoma. But before it could gather full strength, the nation started praying for us, and that storm didn’t turn out nearly as bad as it threatened to become. I fully believe that without those prayers, the devastation in Oklahoma yesterday might have been much more widespread.
And look at the miraculous reports coming out of Moore today. The death toll was downgraded by more than half. Over a hundred people were found alive and rescued after being given up for dead. This lady found her dog in the rubble after believing it had perished. And the outpouring of love and support from both within the state and without is awesome to behold. Hospitals and rescue organizations are having to turn away volunteers because so many people are showing up to help. People who have lost their own homes are focused on helping their neighbors. Oklahoma is doing what it does best: pulling together, reminding us that, even in the midst of devastation and tragedy, we are truly a blessed state.
If you believe prayer has nothing to do with any of that, then you and I are on completely different wavelengths.
But if you were one of the ones praying yesterday, I can tell you this: Oklahomans, by and large, are grateful for every single word of prayer sent up on our behalf. It’s not useless, and it most definitely makes a difference. Sometimes it’s all you can do. And sometimes it’s the most important thing you can do.
But if you’d like to do more than pray, my friend Rebekah Loper has put together a list of resources for how you can help support the people of Moore in their recovery.
UPDATE Re: the photo accompanying this post: “My nephew, Heath Alan Dodd, never would have thought his picture would have gone viral like it did. He wants doesn’t want to profit monetarily from the picture and so would like to ask that if the picture Moves You, to please donate to RedCross.org or $10 by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999. Our hearts are with the victims of the 2013 Moore Tornado. Any help in sharing this photo and helping to get the information about donations to the Red Cross would be greatly appreciated!”