How to Pray When Disaster Strikes

(Written by CRASH founder Jonathan Wilson in January 2011, even before the Tohoku triple disaster, but it is still a great guide.)

There is an old adage that goes like this, “Well, I guess all that we can do is pray…”  I approach prayer quite a bit differently and perhaps so should you.  Prayer always comes first – before we can even attempt to do our “little bit” we should make sure that we have called in the “big guns”.  I originally wrote this prayer list for the earthquake in Haiti.  If it is helpful in organizing your thoughts feel free to join in and pray with me.

1. Pray for those in need of rescue that it will come swiftly.

There are many who are in need of miracles.  That teams would arrive an hour sooner, that dogs would catch a faint scent amidst the stench of death, that the right piece of concrete would be moved.  For all the training and effort that the courageous rescue teams put in, at this point they need miracles more than anything else.

2. Pray for the rescuers – safety, rest, encouragement, in the midst of horror and unrelenting pain.

The job that the rescue teams face is completely overwhelming and they will fail many more times than they will succeed.  Rescue teams suffer great personal trauma and often become suicidal months after an event.  Pray for these courageous men and women now and after they return.

3. Pray for families that have witnessed the unthinkable, are worried about loved ones, and fearful for their own safety.

For every person who is missing, dead or severely injured in the quake there are ten more who care about them and find themselves unable to do anything about it.  Pray that emotional needs would receive attention amidst all of the physical needs.

4. Pray for children who need comfort and safety, hugs and reassurance – even if they are physically “fine.”

Children are the most vulnerable amidst the aftermath of a disaster.  Every child whose world has been disrupted, seen the death of another person or lost friends or family is in need of emotional care, even if they have not suffered physical harm themselves.

5. Pray for governments and authorities that all red tape would dissappear and corruption would cease.

International relief efforts are often hampered by red tape and governments can find getting relief to local areas difficult because of corruption.  Pray for aid to go unhindered to the people that need it most.

6. Pray for relief agencies to have wisdom and compassion to make a lasting difference.

The earthquake is a great opportunity to make forward progress.  But long lasting change will come through courageous and wise decisions that deal with the source of problems.

7. Pray for those around you that they would respond not just with what they can do, but with their heart.

The temptation that we all have is to give a small donation and call it the best that we can do.  We all have many reasons why we cannot give more.  Pray that hearts would be moved and that people would be truly generous.  For those of us using social media like Facebook  or Twitter, this means that we should get involved, make connections and let it be personal.

8. Pray for yourself that you would have a heart of compassion – start now and it will grow.

A true heart of compassion is not just ready to give when the need arises.  A true heart of compassion seeks out ways to help even when no one else notices that there is suffering.  A true heart of compassion will allow itself to continue caring long after the world has lost interest.

Once you finish praying, ask yourself two questions.

  • How can I become personally involved with helping the people?
  • How can I financially support someone who is personally involved?

It is important in the early stages of a disaster to fill up the coffers of those organizations that do rescue and relief work.  They will use that money to stay ready for the next disaster that comes.  But in the age of Twitter and Facebook, find someone who is giving their time, energy and life to help those who are suffering and give generously or become that person and give your heart to those who need it most.