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House Members Shout during Moment of Silence

Credit: CSpan via NYDailyOn Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan led the House of Representatives in a moment of silence to honor the forty-nine people who died in the Orlando atrocity on Sunday. However, the silence was not to be as the chamber erupted into shouting. Namely, some expressed frustration over the lack of votes to restrict guns by chanting "Where's the bill?" Some lawmakers even walked out of the chamber in protest before the moment of silence began, including Rep. Jim Himes.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Himes wrote: "If the House of Representatives had a solitary moral fiber, even a wisp of human empathy, we would spend moments not in silence, but screaming at painful volume the names of the 49 whose bodies were ripped apart in Orlando, and the previous victims and the ones before them."

Writing that he knows that mass killings are complicated, potentially involving a number of issues, Himes had enough. "All I know is that the regular moments of silence on the House floor do not honor the victims of violence. They are an affront. In the chamber where change is made, they are a tepid, self-satisfying emblem of impotence and willful negligence. It is action that will stop next week's mass shooting. I will not be silent."

Hines and his House colleagues were not alone in their frustration. On MTV, Carvell Wallace offered his opinion of politicians' prayers for Orlando. "In the public prayers of the politicians, they effectively dump the responsibility for protecting the people they serve on God, as if God is a henchman doing the work they seemingly refuse to."

For Carvell, prayer is a "smoke screen to feed our egos and romance our fears." For those who pray, he asks them to "pray that you, yourself, can change in a way that makes Orlando less likely to happen again…All that matters is that you no longer pray for God to change anything. Instead, pray that you change. And then go do it."

For both Carvell and Himes, prayer and action are mutually exclusive. To pray is inaction whereas to act is ideal. But this is a radical departure from history.

Benjamin Rush, a Founding Father and a signer of the Declaration of the Independence, noted: "I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of a Divine power."

John Adams, writing to his wife during the American Revolution, found: "…in all our concernments we ought to have particular regard to the Supreme Disposer of all things, and earnestly to seek his favor and blessing upon all our undertakings, but more especially in the affairs of war, in which the providence of God is pleased many times in a very peculiar manner to interpose and interest itself."

Prayer often does require someone to pause from immediate action. This pause can be difficult because it often follows the paralyzing moments of tragedy, where you feel helpless and hurt. You are not alone. Even Abraham Lincoln said: "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day."

For Lincoln and countless others before him, prayer was not inaction. Rather prayer is an action against the status quo. Beaten down by circumstances, prayer is the refusal to allow apathy to set in or sorrow to win. It is the acknowledgment that you may be in over your head, but you know someone who knows the number of hairs on your head. He is more than a barber, but an eternally wise Leader that is equally troubled by tragedy. Prayerful action seeks eternal guidance and perspective as to the next, most profitable steps.

Theologian E.M. Bounds found prayers to be deathless, in that they live longer than those who uttered them. "Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account." In Scripture, we read that apart from God we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with him we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)"

The gun violence in Orlando should cause us to shout. But those shouts should not be at each other but to Him.

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