Boston Marathon bombings elicit prayers and soul searching

(Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)People stand during an interfaith prayer service remembering the victims of Boston Marathon bombings at the Paulist Center in Boston, Massachusetts April 16, 2013. A pressure cooker stuffed with gunpowder and shrapnel caused at least one of the blasts at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 176 others in the worst attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.

The two bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday went off at 2:50 p.m.

Not long after, social media was inundated with calls for prayer, especially on Twitter.

The onslaught of prayer requests came from people from all walks of life: religious leaders, politicians, celebrities, and even well-known people who were running in the race.

"The American people will say a prayer for the people of Boston tonight," President Barack Obama said in a press conference at the White House on Monday evening. "All Americans stand with the people of Boston."

"We will get to the bottom of this, we will find out who did this and why they did this," he said. "Bostonians will pull together and move forward, the American people will be with them every single step of the way."

CBS News reported that Joe McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and Survivor winner Ethan Zohn tweeted their prayer requests after finishing their marathons.

The worst terrorist incident in America since Sept. 11, 2001 did not just prompt people to ask for prayer.

It also created soul searching regarding exactly why and what people should pray.

The headline on on Tuesday read: "Congress has prayers for Boston, but few answers."

Following the Boston bombings, Rabbi Baruch HaLevi wrote in the Huffington Post that prayer is a response to our natural inclination to want to do something here and now when a tragic event occurs.

However HaLevi noted that prayer is a challenge because it means so many different things to so many different people and traditions.

He outlined what prayer does for him and why it is important.

Halevi said that prayer is a way for people to keep their heads amidst the chaos and hysteria caused by an event such as the one in Boston.

t helps people to stand their ground and reorient themselves in the midst of the tumult and enables them to help others, he said.

Furthermore, said Halevi, prayer reminds people that they are soldiers in the fight against terror. Prayer helps them quiet their hearts and not give in to the goal of the terrorists, which is to disrupt lives.

Many of the prayers offered were of a general nature. Rick Warren, the famed author and pastor who is grieving the recent suicide of his son, tweeted, "Pray for Boston."

Others issued generic prayers for the victims, their families and the first responders.

The Christian Post reported that Seattle pastor David Fairchild wrote on his blog a specific prayer for them.

"May God give these men and women helpful words for hurting people", he said.

At the end his post about what it means for him to pray, Halevi offered this prayer:

"May God bless the souls of those who were killed in this atrocity," he wrote. "May God comfort the mourners and those fighting for their lives."

"May God be with each of us as we stand firm and quiet ourselves. And even if we are afraid, to feel the fear, move through the fear, live our lives," he said.

Some bloggers noted that what is needed in addition to prayer is hope and change.

Ed Stetzer, a Christian professor and researcher, blogged that "today's bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon are disturbing reminders of the brokenness in our fallen world."

"Yet, we are reminded on days like this, our hope is in a new kingdom", he added.

Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said," In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need today."

"We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing", he said.

Jen Floyd Engel of Fox Sports wrote that she prayed as the events in Boston unfolded.

However, she said that the response to terrorism also should involve meanginful discussions about what to do about it.

"I have come to believe that the answer is in changing the world", Engel wrote.

"So my final prayer is this: Dear God. Comfort the victims. And convict the rest of us to be the change we want to see in the world," she said.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News