In the Midst of Tragedy – a Call to Pray

Less than 24 hours ago, we left from Istanbul’s International Airport for a long flight back to Boston by way of Munich.

We had come empty and we left full. We had come discouraged, and we left encouraged. We had come tired, and we left energized.

A city of mosques, vibrant colors, masses of people, human need, and history filled our days.

We returned to a city in shock, trying to make sense of a violent act causing grief and tragedy. The famous Boston Marathon hijacked by evil, a scene resembling a war zone in the middle of this safe city. We received the news by text as we waited on the tarmac, unsure of why we were not allowed to pull up to our gate. This minor inconvenience quickly gave way to shock and sadness. Bombs at a marathon? It all seemed unreal.

Every year since we’ve moved back to the area we have gone to the Marathon. It’s a ‘thing’. We wouldn’t miss it. The only reason we missed it this year was because of our trip.

Our neighbors had been two blocks from the scene and many of the injured were taken to the hospital where my husband works. I hear of more just around the corner, just up the way, others “supposed” to be there but something detained them…it’s all so close.

Days before I had the privilege of meeting just a couple of the millions of Syrian refugees who have come into Istanbul. With a shock I realized that this is the grief and loss that has assaulted them for months on months. Everyone of them has lost someone or more from their family. Everyone of them has lost most all they had, come with as much as they could carry.

As for yesterday, the news got worse throughout the evening — untold deaths in Iraq from a series of bombs that went off in cities across the country; an attack in Somalia claimed by al Shabab.

This post is not a pain and tragedy comparison. Pain is pain and death is death. When it hits closer – we feel the pain more acutely, we know those involved, tragedy has a personal note. And we realize this is what many live with day upon day. There is no longer any safety in their cities or towns. All of life revolves around being in the right place at the right time and escaping death or injury.

The collective grief makes me want to scream, anything to release the sense of helpless fury in the midst of senseless, inane violence. The images make me feel guilt as I sit in comfort looking at gifts I have brought home from shopping in a place of color and life.

And then I remember the call to pray.

Five times a day a Call to Prayer rings out across the Muslim world. I am fully aware of the differences in belief systems between Christianity and Islam – yet five times a day for much of my life I have been reminded to lift my heart in prayer. And the five times stretches to many times in between until I realize I am slowly learning that I can’t make it through this life without prayer; that the exhortation to ‘pray without ceasing’ is life-giving. That in the midst of senseless acts of violence, in the midst of tragedy, I am called to pray. Called to pray to a God who hears and loves, a God who is present in tragedy and accepts our “why’s”, a God who knows no national boundaries or citizenship, a God who took on our human pain and suffering when he “willingly endured the cross”.

In the middle of my rambling words comes the voice of wisdom and grace through Carol who I said goodbye to only a short day ago at the shore of the Bosphorous Sea before we boarded a ferry. Carol – who has heard the news of Boston and reaches across the ocean to comfort and encourage.

“The call to prayer is ringing out now.”

“‘Come Lord Jesus’ is the cry of my heart! We live in a pained confused world! There is chaos that mars the landscape of God’s design. Yes we do experience His mercy and grace but the ache, the groan of pain is heard all around.”*

Church of the Holy Saviour at ChoraAnd so I pray the only words I know how: Lord have mercy. Hear our prayer. Free us from our pain.

*from Carol Brown

39 thoughts on “In the Midst of Tragedy – a Call to Pray

  1. it seems silly to be picky, but you wrote “… the millions of Syrian refugees who have come into Istanbul.”

    I’m sure that is inaccurate. It is misleading at best. We just spent a month in Istanbul and saw no one I identified as Syrian, whereas in Antioch in the south, the refugees are very visible… and there are not millions there either.



    1. Hi Tulin – thanks for reading and commenting. It’s not picky if it detracts from the main point of the post which is the call to pray. And you’re correct – millions is hyperbole that I should have stayed away from. But the reality is – there are many in Istanbul and hundreds of thousands in Turkey itself. In the time I was in Istanbul – only 10 days I met a minimum of 25 just through shopping and at a small refugee clinic. 19% of the over a million refugees fleeing Syria (as of March 2013) have gone into Turkey and they don’t stay in the camps because Istanbul affords greater opportunity as a huge city. As of now estimates are that the count is over 293,000 refugees from Syria in Turkey of the over 1,341,000 plus that are considered refugees. The data is from UNHCR. I think identifying refugees is not always an easy task. Those that came to the clinic would not be identifiable on a street corner in Istanbul.
      I appreciate this correction because it is a reminder that hyperbole can detract from the main point of a post and I don’t want that to happen – so thank you!


  2. Events like the bombing is why people should pray regularly. You never know if this day could be your last day on Earth. God teaches all of us to live each day to the fullest. I don’t let attacks define what I do every day. People do get scared after terror attacks and that is understandable.

    But don’t let one event make you scared for the rest of your life, the attackers would win.


    1. Great words Nathan – thank you. Thanks as well for pointing out the need to not live in fear. So critical and sometimes so hard. It’s ironic – the last thing my director said to me when I left for Istanbul was: Be Safe. And in Istanbul I was so safe, arriving back to bombs in one of the safest cities in the nation. Thank you as always for commenting and reading. Your input is valuable to me.


  3. Reblogged this on Ain't Mine No More and commented:
    Very poignant thoughts on yesterday’s tragedy in Boston from one of my favourite bloggers. Unique perspective from an American (living in Boston), who grew up in Pakistan, and spent many years as an adult living there and in Egypt.


  4. Beautiful. Yes, death is death and pain is pain. Experiencing mourning and grief corporately is valuable and I’m glad you bring in other parts of the world who are bearing their own pain. Maybe if all around the globe we could stop isolating our grief, we’d be light years down the path toward peace.


    1. It’s so easy to think we have a market on pain and grief. That one grief is worth more if you will. I like the words you use “isolating our grief” and wonder how much that moves from individuals isolating their grief to entire nations, building an even higher wall that prohibits understanding….


  5. Ah, Marilyn. I was just wondering this morning what your take was on this tragedy. My thoughts about prayer without ceasing are tracking in the same direction. I too want to avoid the pain and tragedy comparison because no violence is just random violence, especially for those involved. It is, as you suggest, always personal. And the closer it hits, the more personal it gets.

    I am gathering my own thoughts to blog about my experience with my three children downtown Boston on Marathon Monday. May God forgive, have mercy on us all, and call us to prayer not just when tragedy strikes or the muezzin sounds out.

    BTW, I know where that icon of Christ Pantokrator comes from. I have been to that Museum/Church in Istanbul as well!


    1. Yes! You recognized the picture I used. From the church at Chora. It’s amazing isn’t it? First time I had been. Also the first time I had been to Hagia Sophia. I was awe-struck. I look forward to reading your thoughts, especially as one being so close with children there.


  6. Thank you for posting this morning and reminding us to pray. I so appreciate your perspective. I am reminded of Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” May each one of us know what good we are to do today.


    1. I love the verse you posted – your words were a reminder to me that each of us is accountable and responsible for our own actions and turning away from evil. Thanks Julie. Oh – and I loved your poem about the church on your sight. So beautiful.


    1. That’s what’s amazing isn’t it? That in the midst of tragedy we can see those that stood up for good and for doing what is right. I loved what you said on your post “It is up to us to be living memorials, testimony to all that is good and beautiful and amazing” as it brings up the need for us to not wallow in confusion, chaos, and fear but instead rise to what God would have us do. Thanks so much for this.


  7. I opened Google news this morning to see the smiling face of the 8 year old Canadian boy who was killed in Boston. He was holding a sign with his Dad’s name on it, waiting to greet him as he crossed the finish line. I thought of the uncounted children who have been killed in the violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and more places than I even want to think of. And I ask, Why? Why, Lord? But then I remember Jesus’ tears at the grave of his friend Lazarus. I remember God’s love in sending His beloved Son to die as the perfect sacrifice for all the sins of the world. I remember, I know that God is there wherever people are suffering, wherever there is pain and grief and tragedy. And I pray as you did, Marilyn, and as Carol did, “Lord have mercy!”


  8. Our world continues to become smaller and more intimate. When I heard the news yesterday, I thought of you Marilyn…a friend in Boston. There is no greater way to nurture that intimacy and solidarity then through the power of prayer; prayer that spans miles and connects hearts. You said it so beautifully, Marilyn…as always.


    1. Isabella – thank you so much for your thoughts and knowing we have this relationship built up despite never having met in person. It’s an amazing thought of what God can do with his people.


  9. Thank you Marilyn and Carol. Horrible occurrence here but thank you for the reminder that we serve a merciful, loving God with whom we are in contact always.


  10. You are so right…in the midst of tragedy prayer is our only recourse, God our only refuge. And now this morning an earthquake in Iran (near the border of Pakistan). My heart hurts. It’s too much. I can’t wrap my head around it all. Jesus have mercy….


    1. Very thankful that You two weren’t there, Marilyn, and that you arrived after the event. Thank you for the depth of your sharing, that in a sin sick world; God’s Grace and mercy continues to reach out to all of us. In the midst of pain and loss, our hearts are drawn to our Savior Who gave himself for the sins of the world…Oh, that people would accept His gift and this violence and hate would come to an end!


    2. I woke up thinking of you Robynn – my heart and head hurt. The sadness threatens to overwhelm. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within – your consolations delight my soul”


Add to the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s