Rick Warren's prayer for Charleston: 'Love is the only thing that can overcome evil'

Mourners held a vigil outside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in memory of the nine people shot during a Bible study on Wednesday evening.Reuters

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, California, called all churches to pray for Charleston, South Carolina yesterday, after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday in which nine people were killed.

"We've been here too many times before," he wrote on his Facebook page, "But each time it still shocks us to our core."

Warren said our response should be the opposite of what the gunman intended, listing the ways that Christians can stand for peace, love and justice.

"The gunman's intention was to divide people,
so we must unite in our grief...
His intention was to start a race war.
We must be peacemakers.
His intention was to further segregation,
so we must model integration in our churches,
His intention was to do an injustice,
so we must stand for justice
And his intention was to do harm
so we must be agents of healing."

He commented on the example set by the victims' relatives, who showed  forgiveness to the man accused of the killings, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, despite his lack of remorse. Warren referred to Romans 12:21: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

"Today, hatred is strong in our culture. But love is even stronger, and it is the only thing than can overpower evil," Warren said.

He also shared the prayer that he would use at his own church, in which he said: "Father, our hearts are broken again, as we see the result of sin in our broken world. We know that you are grieving for these who've lost their loved ones...

"First we pray for the unity of the Body of Christ. May our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel church not only feel the love and prayers of the other churches in Charleston, but from hundreds of thousands of other churches supporting them this weekend.

"Second, we pray for comfort and peace and healing in the hearts of those who are overwhelmed with grief in this tragedy. Thank you for saying 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.' Father, you know what it is like to lose a son. Holy Spirit, we ask you to comfort the families, and the church, and the community."

He went on to pray for Saddleback and the wider Church: "May all of us recommit ourselves to doing the opposite of what the gunman intended to accomplish. Help us to be uniters where there is division. Help us to protect all life in a culture of violence and death. When faced with evil, give us the strength to respond by doing good, and to show love in the face of hatred. Help us to be bridge builders when others want to erect walls, and to be peacemakers when others create conflict."

Hundreds of people have held vigils outside Emanuel AME Church over the weekend, standing in solidarity with the victims and their families. Yesterday the church was filled for a memorial service as it opened its doors for the first time since the attack.

Rev Norvel Goff led the service, in place of lead pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the shooting. "Some of us are still trying to seek answers to what happened last week ... I've decided to turn it to over to Jesus," Goff said.