A Gathering Voices Post from TheThoughtfulChristian.com Team
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we'd like to share with you a prayer for civil rights from Prayers for The New Social Awakening. Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie delivered this prayer at the Memphis Civil Rights Museum Freedom Awards Banquet in late 2006, starting with a brief introduction. The introduction is also below.
A Prayer for Civil Rights
The psalmist speaks across the centuries to remind us of a time when “kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss” (Ps. 85:11). The classic summary of what Yahweh asks in covenant with all humankind is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. calls the “magna carta of prophetic religion,” where God asks of us only this: “to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). These three mandates cannot be separated, according to Thomas H. Groome: “As people do justice with loving kindness, their faith as right relationship with God is realized.” Let us pray.
Merciful God, who has been our dwelling place for many generations; we invoke your presence tonight to ask you to quicken our hearts that we may be swift to hear the cries of others from the pit of need. Enlarge our hearts to embrace with love the world larger than our own; help us to have special regard for and respond to the poor and weak, sick and frail, the very young and the very old, whether it is in Memphis or Darfur; the Mississippi Delta or Afghanistan; Haiti or Henderson County; Rwanda or Rhode Island.
Remind us once again of the brave dreams of freedom and justice that were born in the hearts of our ancestors; the dreams they were willing to live and die for; the battles they valiantly fought in the courthouse, the school yard, the classroom, and the streets. Grant us courage to continue to flesh out their dreams; grant us wisdom to reshape the strategy for this present age. O God, let us not be weary in well-doing as we confront the ancient enemies again: injustice, poverty, apathy, racism, and sexism. Behind them all stands an implacable evil that stains the tapestry of the twenty-first century with the blood of the innocent and unsuspecting; that rapes our communities with unprecedented violence, when school children choose death over life in suicide attacks on classmates; that shouts the sounds of wars and rumors of war daily.
If we fall, help us to rise again and put within us a faith and hope that cannot be quenched. Inspire all harassed and struggling souls of every race, nation, creed, and hue with the assurance that all the forces of good are working for them and are moving them on to peace, health, and holiness.
Shine your light in us in such a way that we see all of humankind as brothers and sisters; shine your light through us to bring a new vision of equality. Help us to see that our freedom doesn’t demand the enslavement of others; shine your light on us so that others can see that even though we are marred and broken vessels, you still use us as channels of your grace to bring mercy, joy, and peace into the lives of our fellow pilgrims on this journey of life. We seek the pure light of thy holiness so that we may find our way in this world to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you.
In Jesus’ name,