‘Dear Jesus, Please Help Them’: The Power of Prayer Amid a Mississippi Tornado
This week, Americans have watched with devastated empathy as a horrific tornado ripped through Mississippi, taking the lives of at least 26 individuals and leaving a path of destruction in its wake. In times of such loss and hardship, it is natural for many people, even those who don’t consider themselves to have a personal relationship with God, to turn to Him for comfort or guidance. However, when Matt Laubhan, a Christian and chief meteorologist at WTVA Weather Authority, began to pray on air for those who would be victimized by the tornado, he had no idea of the tangible impact that his prayer would have.
“Amory, we need to be in our tornado safe place,” Laubhan advised the small Mississippi town on Friday night as he watched a new scan appear on his screen, highlighting the disastrous path of the tornado. He became visibly distraught, pausing for a moment before simply praying, “Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen.” Moments later, while continuing to report on the tornado updates, Laubhan can be heard checking with his colleagues about the safety of their families; he asks, “First off, have we made all the phone calls of folks we need to talk to in Amory? For a second. Somebody call Craig’s family just to make sure.”
According to a report from The Independent, local residents who had grown accustomed to tornados while living in Mississippi only realized the gravity of the situation through Laubhan’s urgent demeanor and prayer. “He saved lives for sure,” one resident told the news outlet, citing Laubhan’s broadcast as the reason for her taking cover. She added of her experience, “You know that there is a monster swirling over your house and over your town, and there’s nothing you can do. And you’re just praying for yourself and for everybody else.”
Laubhan’s public prayer not only produced the immediate effect of getting through to residents who were hesitant to seek shelter — it has also impacted others across the nation, who have similarly been offering up prayers for those affected by the Mississippi tornado. Twitter users commented on WTVA 9 News’s tweet sharing the clip of Laubhan praying, telling him, “Thank you for your faith and courage. … Praying for everyone affected by these storms!” Another added, “It [prayer] was the right thing to do.”
Earlier this year, many Americans similarly united behind the banner of prayer as Damar Hamlin, a player for the Buffalo Bills, went into cardiac arrest in the middle of an NFL football game. As Hamlin remained in critical condition receiving medical treatment, the urgency of prayer became apparent even in unlikely settings. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky prayed on air during NFL Live, prefacing by saying, “Maybe this is not the right thing to do, but it’s just on my heart that I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m going to do it out loud.”
Orlovsky went on to pray, “God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God, and coming to you and praying to you has impact. …We just want to pray, truly come to you, and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar, to be with his family, to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer. We believe in prayer.” Orlovsky’s prayer was echoed by countless Americans, who gathered via prayer vigils and social media to express their faith in God’s sovereignty over Hamlin’s life. This week, after months of miraculous recovery, Hamlin celebrated his 25th birthday.
As other nations around the world demonstrate increasing hostility to public prayer, Americans must continually reject the exile of faith from public life. Prayer is powerful in a multitude of ways; it is not only a form of communication with and presenting requests to our heavenly Father, but also a unifying force against the consequences of sin in a fallen world. Though believers will continue to share the gospel in hopes of seeing many saved even in times of peace and safety, the inevitability of tragedies and trials in this life is proof that faith will never become irrelevant, even in the public square.