How shall we pray as we remember 9/11?
Rev. Andrew Di Iulio, pastor of Devenger Road Presbyterian Church
It is hard to believe it has been 20 years since the attacks of 9/11. It was even harder to believe it was all true as we watched the North Tower engulfed in flames after being hit by American Airlines Flight 11. The disbelief continued as we watched United Airlines Flight 175 strike the South Tower. Emergency responders sprang into action; military personnel were put on high alert. American Airlines Flight 77 was next as it slammed into the Pentagon. Then the heroic and life-saving efforts of Todd Beamer and others on United Airlines Flight 93 ended in a field in Pennsylvania. Reality and belief took a hiatus from one another, and the unreal scene unfolded around us one slow minute at a time.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. Six of those killed 20 years ago today were from Ladder 118. Most of us have likely seen the picture of Ladder 118 crossing the Brooklynn Bridge as it sped from Middagh St. toward the burning towers. Little did the crew know that this run would be their last. Firefighters Vernon Cherry, Leon Smith, Joey Agnello, Robert Regan, Pete Vega, and Scott Davidson all had lives and stories that were their own. None of them planned to die that day. But they did, along with so many others.
The story of Ladder 118 has been told many times, and a quick online search will yield more details. The retelling of its story ranges from simple reporting to a heroic tale. One common theme, though, is that these men are remembered as heroes because of their faithfulness to the task to which they had committed themselves. For 20 years, the families and friends of these men have lived without them. For 20 years Ladder 118 has been just a small part of the loss we experienced on 9/11.
As the son of an Army Chaplain, the events of 9/11 had direct and immediate consequences. We were stationed at Fort Drum, NY, home of the 10th Mountain Division. The Fort was shut down to any outside visitors. Everyone went on high alert. Our division was one of the first to be deployed in Afghanistan, and we felt the sting of death very early on.
Many more have since lost their lives as a result of the tragedies of 20 years ago. I have often struggled to find a place of understanding and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty as various events have come and gone. It has even been difficult to know how to pray at times. The question comes up every year for me – how do I pray as I remember 9/11? Perhaps you will find the following thoughts of how we can pray somewhat helpful. This list is certainly not exhaustive or in any particular order, but it’s a start.
Pray for the glory of the Lord to become our deepest desire as we are reminded that the glory of man is ever fading. In Psalm 57:11, David leads us in praise, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!”
Pray for the comfort of those who are remembering lost loved ones. Romans 12:15 instructs us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”
Pray for those who continue to deal with secondary health issues. Many are still fighting the effects of 9/11. John shows us that praying for the health of others is a faithful thing to do (3 John 1:2).
Pray for those who are angry with or bitter against God for allowing the events of 9/11 to happen. Pray that the Lord will give them new hearts and spirits and remove their hearts of stone of give them hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
Pray for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed in the Middle East and to Muslims who are lost and without a Savior. How marvelous of a story it would be for one of the sons or grandsons of the 9/11 terrorists to become a follower of Jesus! Paul asks for prayer in Colossians 4:2-3, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” In this prayer, remember Matthew 5:43-48.
Pray that God’s enemies will come to ruin and their wickedness will be turned on their own heads. Prayers of imprecation must be prayed with wisdom, love, and a desire for God’s glory, not our own vengeance. While the 9/11 attacks were not specifically against God’s people, they were certainly carried out by those who stand against the truths of God’s Word. Psalm 5:10-11 voices the proper balance of these prayers, “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”
Pray that we will be faithful to walk in humility as we live and talk as ambassadors of Christ wherever we are. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 gives us this command, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Pray for first responders as they continue to be faithful to their commitments to uphold order, care for those in need, and seek the preservation of life. It is easy to take our police officers, firefighters, and EMTs for granted. Pray that they will be encouraged and strengthened. Then maybe write a note of appreciation and tell them about Jesus.
Pray for Christ’s Church, that we will be faithful to proclaim hope to a world without hope. Romans 10:14-15 tells us that we MUST proclaim the Gospel, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Pray that we as Christians will visibly remember that God is sovereign. There is nothing that happened then and nothing that is happening now that is outside of God’s control. Colossians 1:16-17 declares, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Pray for our country and its leaders. We continue to face many difficulties as a country and Scripture demands that we pray for those in authority over us, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Pray for the safety of the men and women serving in our military. We are privileged to have others on the front lines of danger on our behalf. The very least we can do is lift them up in prayer before our King Jesus. Pray that they God will be their steadfast love and fortress and will train their hands for war and battle (Psalm 144:1-2).
Pray that God’s people will be faithful to the task to which they have committed themselves. Just as the men on Ladder 118 were faithful despite not knowing the outcome of the day, so we must be faithful to trust the Lord as he leads us in his truth. Paul writes, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
Pray for the return of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the King of Kings, and the Savior of Sinners. This world offers nothing in comparison to the marvelous peace and joy that is promised in the second Advent of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John writes in Revelation 21:1-5, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
Remembering those fallen,
Remembering our hope,
Remembering God’s sovereignty,
Rejoicing in Christ.