A prayer for unity
I wrote the following prayer and delivered it at our church on January 20, 2019. Nothing breaks my heart like our constant reinforcement that one life is greater than another. We do it silently and complacently. This prayer wasn't necessarily directed at anyone but me. In the middle part, where I talk about how we "turn our backs" on truth, I really use examples from my own life and nobody else's. -Adam
Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday and tomorrow we memorialize Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Please join me in a special prayer as we reflect on these two days.
God, you treasure all human life. Each and every person that has come after the first man and woman was quietly knit together, thread by thread, the exact same way in their mother’s womb. As we trace your thoughtful design of human life, we realize that we all have the same origins – the same story of our beginning. Because of you, something we all share is that we are image bearers of you. The intrinsic truth in this, is that, none of us have less dignity or less value in your eyes. None of us has a lesser invitation to know you. None of us is less capable of worshiping you. None of us is less worthy of love.
But, father, we turn our backs on truth. We turn our backs on your message of unity.
Even though we may be more open and accepting than our parents, and their parents before them, we do very little to make sure our children are exposed to people that don’t look like them. We rarely make an effort to break bread with people outside of our tax bracket, neighborhood or skin complexion.
If we meet someone of a different background or ethnicity, we avoid going too deep because we’re scared of revealing our prejudices. We’re scared of taking that risk because things just might get messy.
We propose over-simplified solutions to nuanced and deep rooted problems. We think or say things like, “Just get a job.” “Just learn English.” “Just dress differently.” By doing this we act ignorantly and avoid facing bigger issues like systematic racism. If we explore that it might threaten one’s position of power. If we explore that, we might just be led by the Holy Spirit to do something about it. Instead we over-simplify, and avoid.
We watch the news and blindly have our prejudices reinforced by the stories that lead the newscast. Like sheep, we mindlessly get herded by the media we consume without questioning its truth, its bias or how it should be viewed in light of Jesus’ teaching.
We stay quiet when a friend says something offensive or racist, and our hearts ache because we didn’t have the guts to challenge a friendship in defense of truth.
In our complacency, in our private thoughts, in our preservation of comfort we contribute to the wicked notion that one life is greater than another. In doing this, we let the culture of the day win. A culture where an African American woman is 3x more likely to end the life of her child through abortion than a woman of any other group. A culture where babies diagnosed with down syndrome and other chromosomal disorders are aborted 85% or more of the time.
But Lord thankfully, as James tells us, you “give more grace.” Despite all of this, you love us. Despite all of our mistakes, you saved us. Despite all of our lethargy, ignorance and prejudice, your message of grace hasn’t changed.
Remind us that nothing quenches the thirst of our souls like serving others. Awake us from our comfortable routines and open our eyes to the powerless, the marginalized and the outnumbered. Break our hearts with what breaks yours. Give us empathy that overpowers all other emotions and desires.
And I pray that even one person sitting here today hears this prayer and takes the small, practical step to share a meal and conversation with someone who looks different than them. The Holy Spirit is inviting you to act. Love requires this of you.
God, we long for the unity of all humankind. We long for a day when life is affirmed and valued like the gift that it is. We long for the restoration of all things, for the unity of Heaven and Earth, and for the return of Jesus Christ.
Our only hope rests in you.