Lord God, your people call on you especially in times of chaos and suffering, and your Word and your promises never return void. We commune with you in prayer and meditation in these trying days, and ask that you orient our hearts and minds on all that you have taught us, on all that is good and true.
We pray for the safety of all people, in Baltimore and beyond. We ask that you protect protestors, police, public servants, homeowners, those without homes, families, clergy, volunteers, medics, teachers, students, soldiers, sinners and saints against all forms of death and destruction. We ask that you guard them from evil and all harm, not just from tear gas, tanks, rubber bullets, broken bottles, fists, flames, slings and stones, but from all forces of corruption, cosmic gloom, and spiritual wickedness at loose in this world.
We pray o Father of Lights, that you might make your Word known to us. We remember the words of your chosen prophet Jeremiah, who said: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” Asks Jeremiah: “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No,” he reveals, “they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.” We remember that the sowers of a false peace are really advocating a return to violence, not preaching the liberative gospel that you taught us, o God.
We remember, too, your promises as told by your prophet Ezekiel: “Because they lead my people astray, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall…When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, ‘Where is the whitewash you covered it with?'” We remember that all who whitewash your truth, then and now, and all upholding the supremacy of white folks in America, are putting their faith not in your Word but in crumbling things.
Lord Jesus, we pray that your city Baltimore may deeply know you and the harmony and peace you have promised your disciples. Yet we pray not only for a superficial peace, but for justice, and ask that you reorient our minds around the truth that the status quo — law and order — is not “peaceful” in the Shalom way you have taught us to know peace, but that it is actually quite harmful for those who are suffering within rigged systems. We ask that you teach your people that while the privileged may pray for an end to protest and uprising, for those living in slums, for the poor, the dispossessed, the societally disenfranchised, a return to a status quo without hope is itself perpetuating violence.
Close, O Lord, the mouths of all who speak ill of their brothers and sisters at this time. Jam the keyboards and seal the throats of the wicked, that they might refrain from calling their brethren “animals” and “thugs.” Ensure their spiritual ignorance and their calls for dehumanization and further violence go unheeded. Please forgive their trespasses when we cannot muster the strength to do so ourselves. We ask also for an end to all misinformation at the hands of media and vigilantes, that all falsehoods be brought to light.
We know that vengeance is yours, o Lord, and that it is not ours to seize. We trust in your anger, which has surely been smoldering for centuries, your patience wearing thin, as you have long witnessed the wickedness in our land, the violence and the sinful stripes of oppression that stain our nation. We ask that you forgive those who have lashed out in anger and frustration, all who have injured others in recent hours. Please heal the pain of those misguided who are oriented towards destruction at this moment, who your prophet Martin reminded us were hurting, shouting in “the language of the unheard.”
Do not turn your face from us, o God. Do not forget our suffering, but impart in us your Holy Spirit, the breath of life that fills our lungs and drives us into homes, hospitals, houses of worship, into the streets. “I can’t breathe!” Cried one of your children, as Caesar’s soldiers snatched your sacred breath from his lungs. “We can’t breathe!” Cry your people, wounded by empires that print your name on their money but do not know your justice.
In the words of the Psalmist, “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted…O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”
You know your children’s pain. Gasping for air, you yourself cried out on the cross: “it is finished!” You, the crucified God, know above all what it is to suffer. You are the God of the poor, of the unheard, of the oppressed. You are the God who weeps with victims of starvation, torture, war, bombings, rape, lynching, crucifixion, depression, murder, incarceration. Your wrath is a righteous, frightening thing, and your justice means that the injured can turn to you for aid.
You are the God of Moses, who led Egypt’s slaves out of the grave, the God of Mary, who in Jesus slipped on skin and crushed the powers of Satan and death, the God of the American Negro, who gave your people comfort and strength in their fight for liberation. Though you offer your friendship and redemption to all, you are not on the side of the slaver, the slumlord, the slippery politician, but can always be found among the slaves, the starving, the suffering.
We ask this God for an end to the evil that grips Baltimore, which at its heart is not the actions of individual persons but, in the words of your apostle Paul, “powers and principalities.” We remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” which in our culture are surely illustrated by many evils, including the carefully calculated, undying bane of anti-black racism and white supremacy.
We pray for an end to the racist treatment of black Baltimoreans as we pray for the safety of elected officials and public servants. We pray for schools, industries, churches, and that this metropolis might be concretely healed from red-lining, white-washing, and racial segregation. We pray for the public officials, pastors, teachers, and local organizers who are working to accomplish these ends.
We pray for Freddie Gray’s family, and for the families of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, John Crawford, Oscar Ramos and Wenjian Liu, and all who have lost their lives in recent days.
Finally, we pray that your people would come to care far more about human life, about black lives, than the status of private property – that shattered spines and broken bodies might frustrate our consciences far more than shattered bottles and broken windows.
All these things we dare to ask in your name, Lord Christ, with confidence and faith in you our good God, who can do far more than we ever hope.