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A Prayer for Love in the Face of Violence

This is an updated version to reflect recent events.

If you’re struggling to know what to say, and how to say it, when addressing the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the shootings of Dallas police officers (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa) in personal prayer or during Sunday worship, consider using this summary and prayer:

Tuesday morning Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot and killed by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A civil rights investigation has been initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Police officers responded to a call that Mr. Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store and that he had a gun with him. The convenience store owner who witnessed the shooting stated that the police officers acted aggressively upon arrival and that Mr. Sterling was not holding the gun at any time during his interactions with the police. The gun was in his pocket, and his hands were not near his pockets. Cellphone video footage shows Sterling on the ground, with his gun in his pocket, under two police officers when he was shot and killed. The two officers involved are on administrative leave.

On Wednesday evening Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota during a traffic stop. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were both in the car when he was shot. Mr. Castile told the officer he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and that he had a gun with him in the car. After being asked for his ID, Mr. Castile was shot 4 times while reaching for his license and registration. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend was then told to step out of the car by police officers with guns drawn, forced to her knees, and placed in the back of a police car with her daughter. The officer who opened fire is on paid administrative leave.

Five police officers (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa) were killed and seven were wounded by snipers during a peaceful protest Thursday night in downtown Dallas, Texas. The peaceful march was held over the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Police were present at the protest and at about 9:00 p.m. shots were fired at the officers by snipers with rifles from elevated positions. One of the snipers was later killed with a robot bomb by the police. Three other suspects are in custody. The sniper who was killed stated that he was not affiliated with any movements or groups.

Prayer from OSJ prayers

Litany for Those Who Aren’t Ready for Healing

Prayers for Racial Justice    

Additional Resource

 


Prayer 

God, we are stunned and deeply troubled by the killings that occurred this week. We lift prayers to you, asking that your Spirit intercede for us and for this world.

We mourn with those who are suffering the loss of precious members of their family--in Dallas, in Baton Rouge, in Minnesota. May your Spirit give them peace.

We pray for a Church that does not become polarized at this moment--may the Church proclaim, with words and with action, both that black lives matter and that acts of brutal violence against public servants are wrong.

May our congregations vocalize God's definitive "NO" to the murder of black lives. May all of us be awakened and stand alongside the black community, willing to lay aside confusion and questions and to proclaim that this epidemic of police violence must be addressed. May privilege and power be used as a means to raise awareness and demand justice. May leaders feel pressure from all who live in their communities--white, brown, black--and respond with plans to stop the destruction of black bodies.

We lift in prayer the police officers who must show up for work today, who are doing a dangerous job for too little pay, who are personally blamed for the failure of the whole system. Give them wisdom and strength as those whom we rely on to maintain composure, fairness, and a commitment to the common good. Come alongside them, Lord. Grant them protection and empower them to serve justly.

We pray for healing in communities that carry the weight of generations of broken down relationships between law enforcement and the people they are called to serve. We lament our history of racism and pray for love in the face of violence.

May your Church be afflicted in its core again for this sign of a deep sickness in our communities.

May we listen to the prophetic voices speaking truth and pleading for action.

May our prayers find footing, that we might live lives that are answers to our prayers for peace and justice.


Litany for Those Who Aren’t Ready for Healing

By Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound.

Let us not rush to offer a band-aid, when the gaping wound requires surgery and complete reconstruction.

Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.

Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and how we can restore the loss.

Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child…someone’s beloved son.

Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.

Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice.

Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together.

Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder.

Instead…

Let us mourn black and brown men and women, those killed extrajudicially every 28 hours.

Let us lament the loss of a man, dead at the hands of a police officer who described him as a demon.

Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just.

Let us call for the mourning men and the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege and ease, and sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin.

Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say.

Let us be humble and listen to the pain, rage, and grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors and friends.

Let us decrease, so that our brothers and sisters who live on the underside of history may increase.

Let us pray with our eyes open and our feet firmly planted on the ground

Let us listen to the shattering glass and let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard.

God, in your mercy…

Show me my own complicity in injustice.

Convict me for my indifference.

Forgive me when I have remained silent.

Equip me with a zeal for righteousness.

Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.

Originally posted on Kinetics Live, November 28, 2014.
 


Prayers for Racial Justice

Remembering Michael Brown on the First Anniversary of his Death

August 9, 2015

Prayer of Lament (with verses from the Psalms, especially 19 & 74)

God of the cross and the lynching tree,

of the jail cell and the street corner,

of the bible study and the police car,

look upon the world you have made.

See how it is full of hatred and how violence inhabits the earth.

 

Gunshots ring out under the heavens that declare your glory,

singing the destruction of your children.

Do you not hear our songs?

How long, O God, will you keep silence?

How long will we fail to be your voice?

 

The streets and sidewalks of your dwelling place flow with blood,

pouring out the cries of your beloveds.

Do you not hear our cries?

How long, O God, will you keep silence?

How long will we fail to be your voice?

 

The breaths snatched from lungs swirl on wind that blew creation to life,

echoing with the last gasps of your dear ones.

Do you not hear our gasps?

How long, O God, will you keep silence?

How long will we fail to be your voice?

 

The bones that you knit together in a mother’s womb are broken,

rattling with the earth-shaking suffering of your people.

Do you not hear our rattling?

How long, O God, will you keep silence?

How long will we fail to be your voice?

 

The clanging of cell doors resounds amidst the music of the spheres,

tolling the lives stolen by systemic oppression and unspeakable violence.

Do you not hear the tolling?

How long, O God, will you keep silence?

How long will we fail to be your voice?

 

The crashing of fire-licked windows mingles with the praise and prayers of generations,

shattering the refuge and safety of your sanctuaries.

Do you not hear the shattering?

How long, O God, will you keep silence?

How long will we fail to be your voice?

 

In these days, as in days past,

our mothers and grandmothers have become mourners.

our fathers and grandfathers have become grievers.

our children have become wanderers in vacant rooms.

our kinfolk have become pallbearers.

our communities have become filled with empty chairs.

Remember the people you have redeemed, Holy One.

Remember the work of salvation brought about by your love.

 

You made a way out of no way for slaves to cross the sea on dry land.

Arise O God and defend your own cause.

Raise up in us the cries of outrage.

 

You made water to flow in the desert for Hagar and Ishmael when they were driven out.

Arise O God and defend your own cause.

Raise up in us commitment to the long struggle for justice.

 

You cast out demons so that people might be restored to community.

Arise O God and defend your own cause.

Raise up in us the determination to drive out racism.

 

You witnessed the death of your Beloved Child.

Arise O God and defend your own cause.

Raise up in us the grief that cannot be comforted.

 

You brought new life from the crucifixion of state violence and the wounds of abandonment.

Arise O God and defend your own cause.

Raise up in us the courage to speak truth to power, and hope to hatred.

 

God of the ones with hands up and the ones who can’t breathe,

of those who #sayhername and those who #shutitdown,

of “we who believe in freedom” and we who “have nothing to lose but our chains,”

look upon the world you have made.

Do not forget your afflicted people forever

so that we might praise your holy name with joyful lips. Amen.

Prayer of Lament written by the Rev. Dr. Sharon R. Fennema, Assistant Professor of Christian Worship and Director of Worship Life, Pacific School of Religion.


Additional Resource

To learn more about the use of fatal force by officers of the law in the United States this year, we recommend the following resource from The Washington Post. Staff from The Washington Post, including Calvin College alum John Muyskens, were honored with the Pulitzer Prize for their work developing this resource in 2015.

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