How to pray against racial hostility

Aug 17, 2017 by

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Where I live in British Columbia, the smoky haze is finally clearing, and I can actually see some blue sky this morning! Yet as a province we’re still in a state of emergency due to wildfires continuing to rage out of control in some areas, with more evacuation orders issued over the weekend. So I’ve been trying to pray for rain, for all the firefighters and other emergency workers, for those who have been evacuated, for those who have lost their homes, for all those affected by the devastating fires.

At the same time, I’ve been thinking about the state of emergency that’s been declared in Charlottesville, Va. — not from forest fires, but due to the fires of racial hostility. I’ve never been to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville — although my husband and I once lived about an hour away in Richmond — but I’m horrified at the thought of several hundred white supremacists marching at night through the campus with torches and shouting, “You will not replace us.” What’s more, the rally sparked violence that led to the death of one woman, injured at least 19 other people, there’s now a civil rights investigation, and all kinds of outrage.

As I’ve followed this news with great dismay, I’ve been trying to pray about that too. As Ed Stetzer writes for Christianity Today:

When what we see grieves us, our first course of action should always be prayer. No amount of activism and tweeting can replace going before the One who can heal all the brokenness in this world. As church leaders, we pray alone, we pray in groups, and equally importantly, we lead our congregations in prayer, encouraging each person to plead for those who are being hurt.

Prayer is critical — to appeal to God and express our deep grief, anger and outrage, and to undergird the way we express all of that in the way we live. Our prayers do not end at the ceiling, our prayers are more than words or silence or imagination, as they become embodied in acts of justice and peace.

Just as we pray about the things that grieve us and that grieve the heart of God, we also need to speak up and speak out, to reach out to others and take action.

So while prayer is a first step, our active response does not end with prayer.

Below are some prayer resources that I’ve found helpful. The first prayer was written and shared by a pastor in Charlottesville, the second written as a congregational litany. That and most of the other prayers are brief excerpts, so please click through to the complete versions. See also these other articles that are part of my How to Pray When You Can’t Find the Words series: for peace, for public tragedy, for your enemies.

Winn Collier, Charlottesville

Almighty God, who in the person of Jesus knows exactly what it is to endure evil and to be murdered by rage, we ask you to come and help us and to be near to Charlottesville in our crushing sorrow. We ask these things with tears and boldness in the name of Jesus, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, rules and reigns over our city and our church and our streets, now and forever. Amen.

Rich Villodas, Missio Alliance

Leader: Lord, we ask that you would form us to be peacemakers. May we be people who speak the truth in love as we work for a reconciled world.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

Leader: Lord, we commit our lives to you, believing that you are working in the world in spite of destructive powers and principalities. Bring healing to those who are hurt, peace to those who are anxious, and love to those who are fearful. We wait for you, O Lord. Make haste to help us.

Congregation: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.

The Book of Common Prayer

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Martin Luther King Jr.

O God, we thank you for the lives of great saints and prophets in the past, who have revealed to us that we can stand up amid the problems and difficulties and trials of life and not give in. We thank you for our foreparents, who’ve given us something in the midst of the darkness of exploitation and oppression to keep going. Grant that we will go on with the proper faith and the proper determination of will, so that we will be able to make a creative contribution to this world. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray.

Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team

Create in us a new mind and heart that will enable us to see brothers and sisters in the faces of those divided by racial categories.

Give us the grace and strength to rid ourselves of racial stereotypes that oppress some of us while providing entitlements to others.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

April Yamasaki is lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, B.C., and the author of Sacred Pauses (Herald Press, 2013). She blogs at aprilyamasaki.com, where this post originally appeared.


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