Years ago, I heard an interview with a divinity teacher who said, “You don’t pray for things to get better. You pray for the strength to make them better yourself.”

Like many people and hopefully all of them in some way, the recent gun violence has deeply impacted my emotions and worldview. I feel horrified for our future but clear-eyed that we are to blame for the present and in control of what happens next. A better ending is possible, linked to action and ours to write.

In response to the recent tragedies, I see the familiar pattern and hear the familiar ring of thoughts and prayers everywhere. I deeply appreciate and welcome those thoughts and prayers. At times, thoughts and prayers seem to be the last remnants of civilized society.

At least, I welcome those thoughts and prayers for a flash, as I grasp for anything positive to calm the burning in my eyes. They distract me from the cold reality that society can’t get our priorities straight. Instead, we let our children, brothers and sisters die needlessly while we argue.

Don’t stop at thoughts and prayers

But what if our gun violence has grown into an evil beyond our own understanding? What if it requires some supernatural help to understand? A prayer for understanding is one I can get behind.

However, understanding is always just the beginning. Like the Scriptures and major religious movements in the world, I recognize that thoughts and prayers are essential to the mental make-up and motivations of a person who wants take action to improve their world. To improve the world.

Thoughts and prayers are a direct communication to ask for the strength to overcome problems that seem otherworldly. But…more than anything, thoughts and prayers are a call to action. A sincere, and at times desperate, call for somebody or something to take action and help.

Turn them into actions

In response to the recent tragedies and gun violence in Buffalo, Uvalde and other cities across the U.S.A., my own thoughts and prayers are sharply focused on action. My action has been to get involved and my goal is to get others involved.

I’m asking anyone who reads this to think about how we got here, to pray for guidance and to take action to reduce gun violence. I’m asking anyone who reads this to help me write a different future. Write your congressional representative. Write your congregation. Write your newspapers. Write your Senators. Write everyone and anyone you can, so we can all get moving in the same direction.

Please join me in thoughts and prayers, then action. Help me write a better future with no gun violence so we can focus our thoughts and prayers on thanks and grace instead of pain and grief.

Troy DeBraal is a technology entrepreneur in the San Diego area.

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