As soon as the massacre in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 became public knowledge, people took to social media to show support for the victims and denounce the perpetrator. One of the ways people showed support was by use of hashtags – #prayforvegas or #prayersforvegas.
Soon, the haters came out. People on social media denounced the prayer hashtags and said things like, “we don’t need prayer, we need action,” “your prayers are not needed,” and even went so far as to say that “sending thoughts and prayers” was a sign of indifference.
This is disrespectful and needs to stop.
First, because prayer is an essential part of many major religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, even Wicca. For people who don’t identify with one religion but consider themselves spiritual, prayer can be more a form of meditation or sending good vibes into the universe.
People pray to communicate with an all powerful being or to feel more connected to the universe. People pray for comfort and strength. People pray for others to be comforted and receive strength.
People pray because they need to feel a connection. They need to feel comfort – especially in the wake of a heinous tragedy like the Las Vegas massacre. I am certain that many victims of the shooting uttered prayers themselves – prayers for protection, safety, for their loved ones – and again, for comfort.
People pray as individuals and as communities. After the massacre, religions and non-religious groups around the country held vigils, at many of which they uttered prayers. People gathered together for the sole purpose of praying.
How dare anyone judge something so important to so many people? How dare anyone debase something sacred? How dare anyone try to take away a source of comfort and strength, when it is so desperately needed?
Second, people who state that people praying is a sign of indifference or inaction clearly misunderstand the purpose of prayer and misunderstand the people praying.
There are people who will use hashtags like #prayforvegas because it’s trending, and then go about their day without giving it a second thought. But for the majority of people who pray, prayer is action.
People pray because they have faith that prayer can bring about change. In a country where we claim to respect the beliefs of everyone, why is there so much hate toward one specific demonstration of faith?
The action doesn’t end there. As a religious person, I believe prayer is just the beginning of what I can do. As a native of Nevada, this shooting affected me on a personal level I hadn’t before experienced with other tragedies. I laid in bed an extra hour, wondering how on earth I could go to work. I planned to drive the six hours to Las Vegas to donate blood.
Instead, I did go to work. I stayed here in Provo as a reporter, called local blood banks and published the information they gave on how to donate blood and how to help victims. I used my social media channels to let my Nevada friends and family know where they could go to donate blood and what number they could use to search for missing loved ones.
I said my prayers, and then I did my job the best I could.
I believe that most religious people believe that faith without works is dead as well. Many faith-based organizations played a huge role in helping victims of hurricanes Irma and Harvey; certainly many faith-based organizations will also work to help victims of the Vegas shooting.
We pray sincerely that things will be set right. And then we go out and work to set them right ourselves.
I am ashamed to witness such divisive, disrespectful rhetoric in the wake of a tragedy. If we are looking to unite as a country, we need to respect each other and respect each other’s beliefs, so long as they are not harmful to others.
Prayer is powerful to those who believe. If you don’t believe in the power of prayer, that’s fine. Don’t attack those who do.