I grew up in a house that had a huge poster in the living room saying, ‘This House is Prayer-Conditioned’. Indeed, prayer formed the pillars upon which the home was built. Prayer was always first step on the way to getting anything done — anything. My family and community believed that prayer works. Of course, we still do. If you ask us, prayer changes the world.
Through prayer, we invite God to intervene in our world; to withhold the tsunami of evil threatening to overwhelm the earth, and to heal and sustain us when we are overcome. Indeed, if all followers of Christ knew how much power they have in prayer, and dared to take everything to the Lord in prayer as the old hymn says, this world would be different. Praying people sustain the world. Without the prayers of the saints, the chaos we see in this world could be immeasurably worse.
2018 has been quite an eventful year. On my mind is the ongoing episode of violence in London and other cities across the country. Many people, especially young Black men, have lost their lives in the streets of our cities. There is an avalanche of evil rising against our nation. Yet, we also see God raising up a standard against it — praying men and women, boys and girls — who will switch off their phones and unplug their computers and televisions in order to spend time, bent and broken on their knees, speaking to God for the nations. Each tragedy that strikes encourages us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom, in which there will be no sorrow.
Whenever we celebrate Black history, I think of the laments of the families of the slain Black boys in London. They join many others praying that God would break through and stop all this violence. But, for these and many other Black people down the centuries, prayer has been the source of strength when all hope was lost. For instance, for many generations, enslaved Africans in the Americas found strength to keep on keeping on and fighting the evil of slavery in prayer. Their prayer meetings took place in slave cabins in the bush, away from the master’s churches. It is in these places of deep desperation that lamentations and prayers gave birth to the genre of music known as African American spirituals. Whether they sang, ‘Kumbaya, my Lord’ (Come by here, my Lord), or “Swing low, sweet chariot,” they prayed and hoped for a better day when their tears would be wiped away. Especially for those who risked their lives to fight against Black oppression, be it Dr Martin Luther King (who maintained a prayer-centred day every week throughout his ministry) or Malcolm X (who was a practising Muslim as an adult), prayer was extremely essential. It was something they could not do without.
Black history, itself, is not possible without the mention of praying fathers and mothers who made it from one day to another, raising their families, only through prayer. Prayer sustained and empowered our ancestors for resistance. A great example of this is the prayer called “The Symphony of Life” by Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955). She was born in a family of seventeen children — her parents had been slaves. She would grow up to achieve many things and is remembered as a relentless voice against inequality and oppression of Black people in the United States. She prayed:
Father, we call Thee Father because we love Thee.
We are glad to be called Thy children, and to dedicate our lives
to the service that extends through willing hearts
and hands to the betterment of all mankind.
We send a cry of Thanksgiving for people of all races, creeds,
classes, and colours the world over, and pray that
through the instrumentality of our lives the spirit of peace, joy,
fellowship, and brotherhood shall circle the world. We know that
this world is filled with discordant notes, but help us, Father, to
so unite our efforts that we may all join in one harmonious
symphony for peace and brotherhood, justice, and equality of
opportunity for all men.
The tasks performed today with forgiveness for all our errors,
we dedicate, dear Lord, to Thee.
Grant us strength and courage and faith and humility sufficient
for the tasks assigned to us.
Every generation needs a prophetic voice that calls people for prayer to prepare the way for the Lord. Of course, when God is about to move in any nation, the Spirit of God stirs up people for prayer. It is significant that MAF are calling the nations together to pray For the Sake of the World at a time when it seems we need prayer more than ever. May our world be prayer-conditioned.
Dr Harvey Kwiyani