Today I recorded a special episode of the Pray Every Day show in light of what’s been happening around our nation and the world. Normally I pray spontaneously, but today I crafted this prayer because I realize just how important words can be. I hope you hear my heart in this prayer. I hope you join me as I pray it. The way toward growth comes in the soil of humility.
A Prayer of Repentance
Lord Jesus, my heart is heavy.
And I believe yours is too.
We, your people, have forgotten how to love. We have allowed externals to inform our words and actions toward others. We have created labels that mean IN or OUT. We have differentiated between people, building hierarchies when the kingdom of God flattens them gloriously.
At the foot of the cross, we all exist in repentance, in dust and ashes, all needing a savior. We sing the words of the Apostle Paul, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Sadly, we have memorized this verse, but so often, we live as if it were not true.
Forgive us. Forgive me.
Like Nehemiah, I pray on behalf of our nation and this world for the racist sins tolerated, celebrated, enacted, denied, and buried.
Alongside Nehemiah, I pray, “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you” (Nehemiah 1:6-7).
Because, Lord, when we hate another, we are an affront to you. Hatred and division does not represent your heart. As I remember your time on earth, Jesus, I see a savior with arms wide open, pursuing the wandering one, tearing down barriers, creating a new community made of people who used to call each other enemies.
I am reminded of 1 John 4:20 that so pointedly says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
Jesus, we have preferred hatred to reconciliation. We have failed to love. But not only that, we have bought into the lie that some human beings are without worth or less worthy, or that we are better somehow. What better tool for Satan to use than inciting racist rhetoric and actions in order to destroy your multi-ethic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural church from the inside. The enemy of our souls is a thief, a liar, and his mission is to steal, kill, and destroy us. We have believed his whispers to our peril and to the peril of others. Forgive us for justifying our hatred for human beings who bear the indelible stamp of you, Almighty God.
I repent and ask your forgiveness for the DNA of slavery that inaugurated this nation—one that has had devastating ramifications for so many people today. I am sorry for the hatred, the bloodshed of the innocent, and the satanic idea that one skin color is superior to another. I ache inside for the injustices big and small, as I see them as a violation of the Lord’s Prayer where we ask that your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
When I jump to the New Heavens and the New Earth, I see the beauty of a reconciled humanity to yourself. No more tears. No more aches. No more injustice. And gathering together, we represent the fullness of the body of Christ—every tribe, tongue, and nation, prostrate before you, the Worthy One who paid the price for us all.
This snapshot of heaven is your will—peace among brothers and sisters—but the church has long sequestered itself from one another. The church has segregated, thinking doing so would create peace. Our worship silos have kept us “safe” but distant. Because of that distance, we have failed to have difficult conversations. We have become so prideful that our opinions take precedence over listening to a fellow image-bearer. Or perhaps we playact at listening, just waiting to force our opinion upon another when the conversation breaks.
In this world of faceless interaction and online hollering, we have failed to love. We have given full vent to our opinions without thinking about the people (image bearers!) behind the pixels. We have created a world of us and them, when, in the kingdom, we are always a WE. James warns us so poignantly, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (James 1:26). That extends to our words on the Internet. We are the peddlers of a worthless religion when we spew hatred online. Jesus would not act this way.
Forgive us for forgetting your empathy, Jesus. You know what it is like to be insulted, beaten, maligned, misunderstood, and ultimately crucified. And yet, you who are God, “did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.Instead, [you] gave up [your] divine privileges; [you] took the humble position of a slave and [were] born as a human being. When [you] appeared in human form, [you] humbled [your]self in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). You were beaten like a criminal, though you had done nothing to merit being tortured outside the gate. And yet? Your last breath before suffocation was this: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Even as humanity crucified you, you exhaled forgiveness. Let us become a people who does the same.
Jesus, I find you on the face of those who are hurting. I find you echoed in the haunting words you said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Forgive us for overlooking the broken because it was easier, less messy, or more convenient to do so. We are also guilty of the latter half of your words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did NOT do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). We have not pursued those who are hurting. We have not listened from a position of humility. We have not acknowledged the fear, the past and present trauma, or the reality of the black community’s pleas just to be heard. We did not seek to find you in their faces. We did not afford them the dignity of listening.
Jesus, your church is hurting, and it’s hurting because of our failure to love, to lay down our lives for one another, to prefer others more than ourselves, our fears, and our carefully curated agendas. We confess that we have allowed fear, rather than love, to influence our thoughts and actions. Your word reminds us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), but we coddled fear because it was more comfortable to remain fearful than to cross the street to our neighbor and really get to know him or her.
With the prophet Daniel, I confess our rebellion. “O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations” (Daniel 9:4-5). The sin we perpetrate against others is really a grievous sin against you. When we hurt those created in your image, we hurt you, just like when someone hurts our child, and it deeply wounds us.
Please forgive our lovelessness. Please teach us what it means to love without hypocrisy through the power of the Spirit that gloriously resides within us. We want to represent you, Jesus. We want to love with abandon, without measure.
With Daniel, we plead, “O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name” (Daniel 9:19).
Our land needs healing. Your church needs heart surgery. We who bear your name need forgiveness. And we need revival and resurrection.
The hope of the gospel hinges upon the resurrection, that death precedes life. From the ashes of our brokenness, would you resurrect a new pathway through? Would you heal your church? Would you empower us to worship together as one?
Today, we choose repentance. We choose taking the last seat, giving platforms and microphones to those marginalized by hatred and bigotry. We choose the kind of listening that’s uncomfortable, but necessary. We choose learning about your ways from those who differ from us, while we deeply thank you for the diversity of your holy and beautiful church. We choose apology rather than clinging to our rightness. We choose humility over asserting our opinion. We choose learning over jumping to conclusions. We choose thoughtful in-person discussions around dinner tables to hollering our opinions to masses on the Internet. We choose connectedness over factions. We choose love over hate.
Hear my prayer, O Lord Jesus. Please bring healing, and let that healing come on the soil of my brokenness and repentance. Amen.