Wednesday, June 5, 2019

In May, I gave the following prayer at a National Day of Prayer Service at Christ Community Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in Sheboygan, WI. I've been asked by several people for copies, and I have decided to publish it here as well.

These are the words of Jesus Christ from John 13:34:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Please join me in prayer:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

We come before you broken. Broken in the knowledge that we are an unclean people with unclean hearts. Broken in the knowledge that we have not loved others as you have commanded us to love them. Broken in the knowledge that, as Christians, we are often known not for reflecting your grace and love, but rather for our failures to love and to show grace.

Lord, we believe. We believe that each and every human being—male and female, black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, believer and unbeliever—is made in your image and likeness. We believe that that image and likeness confers a divinely decreed dignity, worth, and God-given equality to all of us as your children—children of the Creator of all things.[1]

And yet we don’t act how we believe. We treat others as “less than.” Our very nation was built on a legacy of slavery and oppression.[2] And little has changed—where we once treated people with different colored skin as worthless tools to be exploited or discarded for our convenience, we do the same today with the unborn. We ignore the cries of the oppressed, the pleas of the immigrant, the needs of the poverty-stricken.

And so, dear Lord, forgive us. Forgive our nation. Forgive us where we have treated our fellow humans as other, as less than. Forgive us where our words have damaged the unity we have as human beings. Forgive us where our actions or lack of actions have caused pain and oppression. Forgive us for tolerating or even benefiting from racism, abortion, violence, gender inequity, hatred, debasing language, and untruth.[3]

Help us to understand even more fully that how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, the marginalized, the unborn, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself.[4] Help us as a nation to hear your call to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, for those who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal.”[5]

Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. Help us to oppose misogyny and the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics. Help us to reject the language and policies of those, including our political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God, including asylum seekers and the unborn. Help us to stand up against the oppression of any child of God and to advocate for those being oppressed.[6]

Empower us to stand up for the truth. Give us the wisdom and power to stand against the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. In the face of lies that bring darkness, enable us to reflect Jesus as our truth and our light.[7]

Help us to encourage civility and the ethic of public service and accountability and reject the pursuit of personal recognition and political idolatry. And help us as U.S. citizens and residents who share a love for our country to reject the heresy of “America First,” and instead to serve our local communities in a way that recognizes the global connections between all of us.[8]

Enable us, to understand that true leadership is servanthood, not domination.[9] Help our nation to be a servant and an example to the rest of the world.

Enable us to speak up for the oppressed, whether it be the Rohingya people in Burma[10] and other ethnic minorities in places around the world who are scapegoated and treated as stateless, as worthless; help us speak up for Muslims in India[11] and Christians in China[12] and other religious minorities in places where they are not permitted to worship. Help us to advocate for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories[13] and indigenous people in Brazil[14], or the millions of others who are being driven from their homelands and livelihoods by unjust governments.

Lord, take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and peoples may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.[15]

“Father, we pray that this country will experience an infiltration of Kingdom culture through brotherly love. The new commandment with which you left us is that we would love one another and by this people would know we were your disciples. May we love one another despite our difference and demonstrate this love as U.S. Americans.”[16]

Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Give the spirit of wisdom to those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.[17]

Lord, in the next moments of silence, hear our prayers for America to love one another and prick our consciences in ways that help us live out those prayers…

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, do not allow our trust in you to fail.[18]

All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

[1] See “Affirmation I” of “Reclaiming Jesus,” a statement by church leaders calling for national prayer and fasting during Lent 2019, available at
[2] Wallis, Jim: America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016. Print. See also “America’s Original Sin: Slavery and the Legacy of White Supremacy,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2018. Available at
[3] See “Affirmation III” and “Rejection of Errors III” of “Reclaiming Jesus” (cited above.)
[4] Matthew 25:40
[5] See “Affirmation III” and “Rejection of Errors III” of “Reclaiming Jesus” (cited above.)
[6] See “Rejection of Errors I, II, and III” of “Reclaiming Jesus” (cited above.)
[7] See “Affirmation IV” and “Rejection of Errors IV” of “Reclaiming Jesus” (cited above.)
[8] See “Affirmation V and VI” and “Rejection of Errors V and VI” of “Reclaiming Jesus” (cited above.)
[9] See “Affirmation V” of “Reclaiming Jesus” (cited above.)
[15] Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, “Prayer for the Human Family.” Available online at
[17] Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, “Prayer for our Country.” Available online at
[18] Ibid.