Scripture and Prayer
In light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


I received this passage on Sept. 11, 2001 after the terrorist attacks. Matt. 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" I felt the Lord was saying do not be anxious.

Also on Sept. 11, I received the following:
"Criminals mock justice and lie about their activities,
But retribution will catch up withthem; there is no escape." Prov. 19:28-29. [This is a new translation by Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro. The NIV's rendering is somewhat different. Compare the NAB.]
James 4:1 "Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts." [To covet means "To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's)". It violates the tenth commandment. [CCC 2535ff] Click here for bible passages that mention covet. For material on the commandments see that section in the catholic catechism.]
Is there anything in scripture that indicates the authority of government includes punishing the guilty or protecting the innocent?
Rom. 13:3-4 "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. " NRSV
Is there anything in the gospel that gives instruction to soldiers, or other agents of government?
Luke 3:14 "Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

In this verse John the Baptist did not say you are wrong to be soldiers, he said they should not exceed their authority; they should not act wrongfully themselves. This is similar to what St. Augustine said in City of God about soldiers who act on their own, without proper authority. "But if he has been acting on his own authority, and at his own impulse, he has in this case incurred the crime of shedding human blood."



Some worry that this could be the beginning of the end, but remember what Jesus said: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." Matt. 24:36.
 "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet." Matt. 24:6. (Search for war(s) in NIV NT.)
Rom 12:21 "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."


Romans 14:8 "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." 


"Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident." Ps. 27:3. See also, Psalm 144.


 Some Proverbs
Prov. 20:18 "[W]age war by following wise guidance." (Also Prov. 24:6)

Prov. 28:4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law struggle against them.

Prov. 28:13 No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Prov. 28:17 If someone is burdened with the blood of another... let no one offer assistance.

Prov. 28:18 One who walks in integrity will be safe, but whoever follows crooked ways will fall into the Pit.


Nevertheless, our ultimate goal must remain the promised time of peace.

'He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Is. 2:4; Micah 4:2-4. NIV.

Look at the NIV translation's use of "peace" in the New Testament.
For Victims


Matt. 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matt. 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matt. 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Matt. 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Matt. 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Matt. 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matt. 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 5:11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. " NRSV

[Matt. 5:11 could be especially relevant if some of the terrorists act to harm people because the victims are Christian or even merely not Muslim. This could be the meaning of the terrorist's use of the word jihad: "A Muslim holy war or spiritual struggle against infidels" (That is how the term is used in English, but see one Islamic definition.) No one can say that all people of Islam think the way the terrorists do about Jihad and the death of civilians. (See Terrorism and Jihad in Islam where it says: "The religion of Islam should not be confused by what these so called Muslims have done [i.e. the Sept. 11th attacks]. They actually, by the definition of the Quran, are not Muslims or at least as much Muslims as the Ku Klux Klan are good Christians. We should not let our emotions overcome our logic and understanding.") However, Bin Laden calls Bush the "world leader of unbelief", which means infidel, and says: "I say that these events have divided the entire world into two camps - a camp of faith in which there is no hypocrisy, and a camp of unbelief, from which may God protect you. So every Muslim must rise up and come to the aid of his religion." That is jihad. Bin Laden puts the conflict in religious terms and thus seeks to ignite a religious war.]

View all of the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5, in the NIV at Bible Gateway.



John 14:27  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
John 16:33  "I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
It would seem valuable for all to pray during this time.

See the Initation of Christ, Book III, chapter 30.


2327. "Because of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it. The Church prays: 'From famine, pestilence, and war, O Lord, deliver us.'" [CCC 2327]


Obviously one prayer we can use is the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:9-15). The Lord's Prayer has been translated into 1207 languages and dialects. In its discussion of the Lord's Prayer and the line which says "Deliver us from evil" the Catholic Catechism says:

2853. "Victory over the 'prince of this world'[Jn 14:30 .] was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is 'cast out.'[Jn 12:31 ; Rev 12:10.] 'He pursued the woman'[Rev 12:13-16.] but had no hold on her: the new Eve, 'full of grace' of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). 'Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.'[Rev 12:17.] Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: 'Come, Lord Jesus,'[Rev 22:17,20.] since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One."
2854. "When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ's return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has 'the keys of Death and Hades,' who 'is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'[Rev 1:8,18; cf. Rev 1:4; Eph 1:10 .]
Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." [This last prayer is from the Roman Missal and concludes the Lord's Prayer.]
[See this section on the Lord's Prayer in the CCC.]
The Archbishop of Seattle has asked us all to pray during this time: 
"That we may avoid stereotyping any religious, ethnic or cultural group, reject hateful words, and work with each other in confronting terrorism and violence treat[ing] each person as a child of God."
"For the Church in the United States that we may be, for our country, faithful witnesses to God's great love for all the peoples of our world by disarming our own hearts and becoming instruments of peace and reconciliation."
For our President all world leaders "that their actions may be guided by wisdom and restraint as they unite to eradicate the evils of terrorism and promote peace rooted in justice for all people."
For our church and religious leaders "that they may be courageous in their ministry to effect reconciliation and peace as they provide guidance and comfort in this time of uncertainty".
Finally for the families of the innocent victims of terrorism that they find healing in faith,...and through the loving care of their neighbors, church communities and friends."

"Give us aid against the foe; worthless is human help. We will triumph with the help of God, who will trample down our foes. " Psalm 60:13-14


Psalm 143


1 1 LORD, hear my prayer; in your faithfulness listen to my pleading; answer me in your justice.
2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant; before you no living being can be just.
3 2 The enemy has pursued me; they have crushed my life to the ground. They have left me in darkness like those long dead.
4 My spirit is faint within me; my heart is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of old; I ponder all your deeds; the works of your hands I recall.
6 I stretch out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.
7 Hasten to answer me, LORD; for my spirit fails me. Do not hide your face from me, lest I become like those descending to the pit.
8 At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust. Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me, LORD, from my foes, for in you I hope.
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.
11 For your name's sake, LORD, give me life; in your justice lead me out of distress.
12 In your kindness put an end to my foes; destroy all who attack me, for I am your servant.


1 [Psalm 143] One of the Church's seven Penitential Psalms, this lament is a prayer to be freed from death-dealing enemies. The psalmist addresses God, aware that there is no equality between God and humans; salvation is a gift (Psalm 143:1-2). Victimized by evil people (Psalm 143:3-4), the psalmist recites ("remembers") God's past actions on behalf of the innocent (Psalm 143:5-6). The psalm continues with fervent prayer (Psalm 143:7-9) and a strong desire for guidance and protection (Psalm 143:10-12).

2 [Psalm 144] They have crushed: literally, "he crushed"; the singular is used typically, hence the plural translation.
New American Bible Copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.


"John Paul II reflected on Psalm 56... The Psalm, in effect, passes from dramatic lament to God to serene hope and joyous thanks."

"The Pope explained that the first part of the Psalm concerns the "experience of fear at the assault of evil which attempts to strike the just man. ... The presence of the Lord does not delay in showing its efficacy, through punishment of the adversaries. ... Such faith in divine justice, always alive in the Psalter, prevents discouragement and surrender to the power of evil. God always takes the side of the faithful, overturning the designs of the enemy, making them stumble on their own wicked plans."

"The second part of the Psalm, the Pope continued, is one of thanks." [Compare Ps. 56 in the NIV with the New American Bible's version.]


[After this comment on the Psalm in] his greetings to English-speaking pilgrims after the audience, in reference to the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States, the Pope said: "I invite you to pray in these days that Almighty God will guide the mind and hearts of world leaders so that the ways of justice and peace may prevail."

VATICAN CITY, SEP 19, 2001, Vatican News Service

For our Enemies.

O ALMIGHTY, Everlasting God, Who, through Thine Only Son, our blessed Lord, has commanded us to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that persecute us: We earnestly beseech Thee that by Thy gracious visitation they may be led to true repentance, and may have the same love, and be of one accord, and of one mind and heart with us, and with Thy whole Church; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen. [The Lutheran Church in America (1917)


Prayer in time of war or civil disturbance.

 "God of power and mercy,

You destroy war and put down earthly pride. Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters. Through Christ our Lord. Amen." [From the Roman Missal.]

Prayer of Pope John Paul II


"May the Blessed Virgin bring comfort and hope to those who suffer on account of the tragic attack of the terrorists, that... seriously harmed the beloved American people. To all the children of this great Nation I direct my heartbroken and heartfelt consideration. May Mary welcome the dead, console the survivors, support those families who are particularly tried, help all to resist the temptation to hatred and violence, and to dedicate themselves to the service of justice and peace. "

L'Osservatore Romano - 19 September 2001)

 Prayers for the Nation from the Luthern Church  



"Holy Lord, almighty and eternal God, hear our prayers for your servants, whom you have summoned out of this world. Forgive their sins and failings and grant them a place of refreshment, light, and peace. Let them pass unharmed through the gates of death to dwell with the blessed in light, as you promised to Abraham and his children for ever. Accept them into your safekeeping and on the great day of judgment raise them up with all the saints to inherit your eternal kingdom.

Lord our God, you are always faithful and quick to show mercy. Our brothers and sisters were suddenly and violently taken from us. Come swiftly to their aid, have mercy on them and comfort their families and friends by the power and protection of the Cross." [From EWTN.]




Catholics should recall that Mary Mother of Jesus is the patron saint of the United States. She also has the title of Our Lady of Victory. In addition, she is listed as the patron of Arabia under the title of Our Lady of Arabia. [I would think it worthwhile to ask her prayers for all the people of Arabia that they not suffer harm and not fall victim themselves to the terrorist's violence and message of hate.] The Patron Saint Index lists St. Maurice as patron of armies, soldiers and infantrymen. St. Michael the Archangel is listed as patron of soldiers too, as well as airborn soldiers and police officers, along with St. Sebastian. Because biological warfare is possible one might ask the prayers of those invoked for relief from pestilence. St. Barbara is patron of firefighters, gunners, and artillerymen.



In the event of additional terrorist attacks, Catholics should also recall that a pleanery indulgence is available to anyone at the time of death who is in the state of grace and who would fulfill the usual conditions if they lived. People facing death should repent of their sins and make an act of contrition. We all should examine our consciences and receive the sacraments frequently, especially anyone in danger. Finally, recall that the last sacrament is actually Holy Communion as Viaticum.

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