O God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee, the only true God of the universe.
We come to thee today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future.
We are mindful, O God, that man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things, and humanity is not God. Bound by our chains of sins and finiteness, we know we need a Savior. We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature, but we live above nature. Help us never to let anybody or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee.
Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like stars and to live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children, Black, White, Red and Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and our God, we pray, Amen.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), as collected by James Melvin Washington in CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD: TWO CENTURIES OF PRAYERS BY AFRICAN AMERICANS. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994, p. 190.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Lord, be merciful,
shut me up
when my life
speaks so much louder
than my words.
When we blunder through life,
golden-throated and silver-spooned,
bungling it all,
be merciful, Lord,
shut us up.
Let us feel our own lies.
Ulrich Schaffer, from GREATER THAN OUR HEARTS: PRAYERS AND
REFLECTIONS, Harper & Row, 1981
Psalm 51 - this is one of my most often forms of confession - this particular Psalm.
[Confession is telling God the truth about our sin. What an odd blessing when our loving God uses the pain of our blundering to bring us to our knees and draw us back into a proper relationship with him! I find it interesting that the poet acknowledges both personal and corporate blunder. See Psalm 51 and Isaiah 1:10-18.]
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
John Stott, CHRISTIAN BASICS, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969, pp. 121-122.
- University of KentuckySocial Work, 1977 - 1982
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