The following is an edited version of my pastoral prayer from this past Sunday at Christ Covenant.
O loving and sovereign God, our heavenly Father, we come to you in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Lord, asking that you would hear our prayers for his sake.
In your providence, you have arranged for this week in January that we in America would be reminded of two of our most heinous national sins.
We celebrate this week Martin Luther King Jr., a man who not only exposed racism in this country but also called us to dream of a day when we would not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. We give thanks for all the ways racism is less evident, less prevalent, and much less accepted today than it was 50 years ago.
We thank you for the different nationalities and ethnicities present in our church. We rejoice to know that there will people around your throne from every tribe, every tongue, and every language. In so far as we are able—given our time and place as a congregation—help us to reflect this reality. Show us our abiding sins and shortcomings. Give us grace, insight, and self-awareness that we might remove barriers to the faith and barriers to the church, save for offense of your truth and the enduring scandal of the cross.
While there is much to celebrate regarding racial harmony in this country, compared to where we have been, there is also much to pray for.
Wherever there are suspicions based on stereotypes and bigotry, forgive us. Wherever there is animus or prejudice based on differences in history, race, or economics, convict us. Wherever we are in bondage to self-pity or self-protection, redeem us. Wherever we are crass, insensitive, unthinking, or unfeeling toward the hurts and injustices others have experienced, deliver us.
May those who belong to groups that have historically been shown prejudice in this country be free from bitterness, anger, and thoughts of recrimination. May those who belong to groups that have historically been privileged in this country be free from ignorance, pride, and thoughts of superiority.
Keep us fixed on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Change structures and systems where they are unjust. Change politicians and policies where they stir up division or seek out votes based on racial disunity.
Most of all, change the hearts of all those who are far from Christ and far from each other. May we all see the image of God in one another. And may we who call upon the name of Christ see in one another a brother, a sister, a certain heavenly companion, and the makings of an earthly friend.
We will also remember this week the anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade. Just as the thought of slavery and lynchings is a tragic stain on our country, so is the scourge of abortion on demand. We could add together all the people living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee, and still it would be fewer than the number of children killed by abortion since 1973. We pray that you would stay your hand of judgment—a judgment our nation richly deserves.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord. Forgive our apathy and indifference. Bring healing to those who have performed abortions, had an abortion, or pressured others to get an abortion. Lead us to the cross of Christ where no sin is so big that your grace isn’t bigger still.
Give wisdom and courage to pro-life legislators and executives that they might protect the innocent and the vulnerable. May they work to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans—in the womb and outside the womb, no matter how small, no matter their cognitive ability, no matter their dependence or independence. Give compassion and resolve to all those working with at-risk women. Give Christian doctors the knowledge to know what procedures and prescriptions are right and the conviction to never encourage a patient in a direction that is wrong.
Give to each of us a spirit of generosity that is supportive of birth, supportive of adoption, and supportive of foster care—in whatever ways we are able to be supportive given our season and station in life. Give to your people the spirit of Christ, who never pushed away children, but welcomed them into his arms, saying “for to such belong the kingdom of heaven.” May we live to see the day when not only legislation and judicial precedents are changed, but also minds and hearts and wills.
We confess that both of these matters, race and abortion, can seem like intractable problems—too complicated, too controversial, too entrenched. But your arm is not too short. No one is beyond your reach, and nothing is beyond your grasp. And so we pray that you would do more than all we could ask or imagine—for the common good, for the good of the gospel, and for the glory of your name. In Jesus we hope and in him we pray, Amen.