Yesterday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a tragedy beyond words. As a parent myself, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child. It almost sounds trite and overused to express our sympathy and to express that the victims and their families remain in our thoughts.
And yes. They remain in our prayers.
One may ask, what can prayers do? Many on the Left question the benefits of prayer and even stoop to mocking it. After all, prayer is just a bunch of words, they say, and represents a fig leaf for us creating real solutions to overcome gun violence.
But condemning prayer and assuming it means nothing misses its value entirely. The concept of prayer, particularly in Jewish philosophy, is recognition of our impotence and lack of control of the world. And that control or power rests, as I and others believe, with God.
Only He can regulate evil.
The great Jewish sage and philosopher Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) states it this way:
“We are told to offer up prayers to G‑d, in order to establish firmly the true principle that G‑d takes notice of our ways, that He can make them successful if we serve Him, or disastrous if we disobey Him; that success and failure are not the result of chance or accident.”
In more banal terms, God does not need our prayers. Prayer is for our own benefit, to acknowledge that we depend on God for everything, from wealth to the food we eat every day.
How much moreso for our lives as a whole.
However, it is also true that we do have free will. And the age-old question arrives, how can we exact free will if God controls the world and all its outcomes?
Countless biblical commentaries tackle this question, but I believe that the answer is that we merely possess free will to control ourselves and our own actions. We cannot control the actions of others, because that would impede on their free will. It ultimately lies with each of us to be the most righteous or most evil people we can, or want to, be.
And sadly, but understandably, this is why we cannot control evil, and only God can.
But our power rests in connecting with our Father in Heaven, and beseeching Him for guidance in dealing with life situations and the pervasive evil that exists in our world. And that is through prayer.
Prayer is the closest thing we can do to regulate evil. And by reaching out to God, evil may be eradicated one day. We don’t know, precisely because we cannot control this. But at least, in our darkest hours like those our nation faced yesterday, we can depend on prayer to be the way we shape our outlook on the world. And that is indeed something worth praying for.