Heavenly Father, we are thankful as we start a new year for a rhythm and a calendar that reminds us of events and people who had a lasting impact on our history and on the human experience.
We look to the national holiday tomorrow and join our nation in remembering and honoring a man, Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached the word of God and promoted justice in his own time. We acknowledge that any man, or any preacher, is not honored because of words of eloquent wisdom or even their motives, but along with the Apostle Paul we rejoice whenever Christ is proclaimed.
Yet, it is not lost on us that the cultural landscape in 2019 makes the celebration of this holiday particularly sobering, and particularly important. The dream of racial harmony is not yet realized. Our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and churches do not yet reflect the diversity that your Word describes is beautiful. Racial prejudice still lingers and brings hurt that affects generations.
Therefore, we take this opportunity on this occasion to pray to you God – our Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Mighty God, Prince of Peace – for a specific working of your Spirit and your healing hand in our country, our world, and our hearts.
We live in a culture and a time when it is far easier to judge the opinions and actions of others rather than reflect on the wickedness in our own heart. Lord, please forgive us and have mercy. Help us remove the log in our eye before identifying the speck in our brothers’ and sisters’.
And we live in a culture and a time when it is far easier to attend to our own needs without also being aware of and caring for the needs of others, especially those who are different than us. Forgive us Lord! Deliver us from the snare of debating “who is my neighbor?” like the lawyer in the parable in Luke, and instead help us simply be a good neighbor to whomever we encounter, especially those in need, like the good Samaritan did in that story, and like you, Jesus, did throughout your earthly life.
Lord we pray that you would victoriously cast out fear that may exist in our hearts, and that does exist in our country and perhaps even our local church, towards pursuing biblical reconciliation and diversity; the kind of reconciliation and diversity we see so clearly in the Bible, the gospel, and in your promises of a new heaven and a new earth. Give us courage to overcome our own fears and strengthen us to love with the perfect love that you tell us casts out fear.
We pray for the same thing that King prayed for more than 50 years ago; a world, a country, and a church that more closely reflects the holiness, the love, and the hope displayed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We lament like he did that we live in a place and a time that has a stained history and a present problem of racism. But we trust like he did that our God is able and willing to bring about everlasting healing and reconciliation in our generation.
Father, through your Son Jesus and by the power of your Spirit, bring to bear in our lives, in our country, and in our church, the only message that can truly change sinful hearts, save and unite sinful people, and reflect the glory that you intend for us to reflect – the message of the gospel that He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God. In awe of that message and dependent on your power, we pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen!