In 1979, Bahram Dehqani-Tafti, the son of the Anglican Bishop of Iran, the Rt. Rev. H.B. Dehqani-Tafti, was murdered during the revolution that brought the Ayatollah to power. Exiled from the country and unable to attend his son’s funeral, Bishop Dehqani-Tafti composed this prayer and had it broadcast live into the service.
A Father’s Prayer Upon the Murder of his Son
O God, we remember not only Bahram but also his murderers;
not because they killed him in the prime of his youth
and made our hearts bleed and our tears flow.
Not because with this savage act they have brought further disgrace
on the name of our country among the civilized world;
But because through their crime we now follow thy foot- steps
more closely in the way of sacrifice.
The terrible fire of the calamity burns up
all selfishness and possessiveness in us;
Its flame reveals the depth of depravity and meanness and suspicion,
the dimension of hatred and the measure of sinfulness in human nature;
It makes obvious as never before our need to trust in God’s love
as shown in the cross of Jesus and his resurrection;
Love which makes us free from hate towards our persecutors;
Love which brings patience, forbearance, courage,
loyalty, humility, generosity of heart;
Love which more than ever deepens our trust in God’s final victory
and his eternal designs for the Church and for the world;
Love which teaches us how to prepare ourselves to face our own day of death.
O God, Bahram’s blood has multiplied the fruit of the Spirit in the soil of our souls;
so when his murderers stand before thee on the Day of Judgment,
remember the fruit of the Spirit by which they have enriched our lives.
In the avalanche of emotions that we feel and responses that are being made to the horror of what happened in a Bible Study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, the shape of this prayer frames my thinking as a Christian more powerfully than anything else I have ever come across. It’s challenge has the weight of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the push of the Holy Spirit in it.
Anger today is certainly legitimate, but it’s not enough.
Anguish today is clearly appropriate, but it’s not enough.
Guilt today is entirely proper, but it’s not enough.
Shame today is completely fitting, but it’s not enough.
A cry for social justice today sounds totally right, but it’s not enough.
Calls for new legislation are undoubtedly timely, but they are not enough.
Nothing short of a change of heart is what is needed, and that’s what this prayer seeks. And so I invite you to join me as a Christian in praying it for Charleston, McKinney, Baltimore, Staten Island, Norman, Ferguson… me and you. DBS+