Giving Thanks for a Committed Life
Martin Luther King
Source: Harold A. Carter, “Prayer Tradition of Black People (1985)”
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 sin 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 anyone or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us the strength to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon the 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 the stars and 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 of God's children — Black, White, Red, and Yellow — will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.
In the Book “Standing in the need of prayer” Coretta Scott King said this about her husbands prayer life:
For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle. I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough.
After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: "Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can't face it alone.”
Later he told me, "At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: 'Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'" When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.
I am reminded that the primary purpose of prayer is not to change “things” but to change me. When I am changed, then I can be used by God in such a way as to be a planet changer through my actions. There is a synergy in prayer where we pray as if all depends on God, then we get up and serve as if all depends on us!
In this prayer we see the building blocks of Martin Luther King’s prayer life, and missional accomplishments:
1. Humility. Everything Starts and Ends with God.
2. Responsibility. I am called to live to a higher standard than our culture’s.
3. Community. The Church is a formative and missional force for good in the world. We are better and more effective together than solo.
4. Acceptance. Loving others (not just the people like me, or the people I like) is the key to experiencing beauty in this life.
May we all grow in grace and truth.