To be honest, when I read of violence like this, my first reaction is to be angry. I'd like to think that anger is righteous anger of the type that Jesus displayed in clearing the temple of the moneychangers, but in my more candid moments I know better. James says that man's anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.
So when I pray over situations like this, I first ask God to cleanse my own heart. I want to feel his grief for both the victims and the perpetrators. That's not an easy prayer; frankly, only God could do that.
Recently, I've begun to "go on the offense" in praying for the persecuted church. I realized that my prayers have been primarily defensive in nature: asking God to fix what was broken, to comfort grieving families, etc. These are important prayers, but for some reason God seems to be leading me to pray more aggressively these days.
In praying for the families of these murdered workers, I've been asking God to do for them what he did for Job - not just to restore what was taken, but many times more than that. I've been praying for an "abundantly more than all we ask or imagine" type of blessing for those impacted by persecution - something that only God could do, something that will bring honor to him by showing both his love and his power.
And in praying for the perpetrators of crimes like this, I've begun to pray for Damascus-road type experiences like Paul had: not just that the persecutors would stop persecuting, but that God would so change them that they become champions of his cause. We know that Paul's conversion caused no small stir in the early church - can you imagine the stir it must have caused among his former allies in persecuting the church? What better display of God's power and saving grace could there be than that he turns around the lives of those who have so set themselves against him?
The church is at war. So yes, I pray for God to protect, to defend, to restore. But more and more these days, I sense God leading me to ask him to take the offense - to break down walls, to change lives, to expand the kingdom. The "armor of God" passage in Ephesians 6 contains both defensive and offensive weapons. I think God is teaching me now that prayer is intended to be the ultimate weapon on both defense and offense. What do you think?