Prayer for our nation: A liturgy to address racism

Posted on June 13th, 2020

This liturgy was prayed at the close of a week of prayer and fasting for our nation. It includes a litany of repentance written specifically to aid the church in addressing the sin of anti-African-American racism in the U.S., engaging the ancient Christian practice of corporate repentance. This litany provides a means of acknowledging our personal sins as well as the sins of our and past generations. Through the grace of repentance we seek God’s forgiveness and restoration for our nation. We share it for your free use, to aid your family, small group, or church in continuing the work of repentance for the sins of our nation that constellate our present affliction of racism. If you would like a printable copy of this liturgy, contact us at info@ministriesofpastoralcare.com.

 

Words of Welcome:

This is a time of prayer for our nation and we will pray in a particularly corporate way. In our every-day prayer life, we tend to approach confession of sin as individuals. In tonight’s prayer we’ll name sins that we may not have not personally participated in but that we have authority to confess as members of our society. We’re going to name many aspects of the sins of racism, not to overwhelm or castigate ourselves, but to reach for the clarity, courage, and hope that are the fruits of receiving God’s forgiveness.

 

As we pray tonight, if voices of condemnation begin to whisper or shout in your mind, if your heart starts to shrivel up inside you as we pray this prayer of confession and repentance, or if you find yourself shrinking back or feeling defensive, I urge you to pay attention to that. Don’t ignore it, and please don’t give in to it.

 

Instead, acknowledge your response, whatever it is, and bring it to God. Place yourself consciously inside the cross of Christ, remembering that your life is hidden with Christ in God. Name the voices of self-hatred or condemnation, or, it may be, defensiveness or self-righteousness. Ask God to silence the voices that accuse or rationalize, and return the eyes of your heart to Christ.

 

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there’s a scene after the traitor Edmund has been rescued from the White Witch. He’s had a long conversation with Aslan, the Christ figure in the book, and has been reconciled to his brother and sisters, whom he betrayed. Then the White Witch comes and demands the traitor be handed over to her. Everyone knows she’s talking about Edmund. Edmund knows she’s talking about Edmund, but he doesn’t listen to her shrill, angry, accusing voice. Instead, he keeps his eyes steadfastly fixed on Aslan.

 

Let us be like Edmund, not listening to the voice of the accuser but keeping our eyes on Christ who loves us with love so high and wide and long and deep that it covers all our sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

And still, we must let God do his purifying, sanctifying work in us, so that we can stand before Him holy and righteous all the days of our life. And that means we must name and turn from our and our forebears’ sin. We must confess and repent.

 

But we confess and repent while standing within the cross of Christ whose blood washes over us and washes away all our sin and guilt and shame. We can face the evil of racism without being overwhelmed by it because we stand in Christ. If you begin to feel flooded by guilt or fear, consciously place yourself in Christ. Remember that you stand in Him. Remember that He loves you—you…and me, despite our sin, despite our complicity in the sins of others, despite our grievous reactions to others’ sins. Hold yourself in His love—and ask Him to keep you rooted and grounded in Him as you pray, for it is His love that alone can empower us to repent and turn from our sin and receive the forgiveness and healing each of us, and our nation, so desperately need.

 

We will begin our prayer time with a few moments of silence and then pray Psalm 123 responsively.

 

123

Ad te levavi oculos meos
1 Unto you I lift up my eyes,
you who are enthroned in the heavens.
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
and as the eyes of a maiden to the hand of her mistress,
3 Even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,
until he show us his favor.
4 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have suffered more than enough contempt.
5 Long has our soul suffered the scorn of the wealthy
and the spitefulness of the proud.

 

Litany of Repentance

 

We gather to fall on our faces before God and plead for his mercy and intervention,
with broken-hearted contrition,
with commitment to repentance,
with confidence that as we ask according to His will He will hear us.

 

Let us humbly confess our personal and corporate sins,
as individuals and as those who share in the sins of our nation,
to almighty God.

 

You are invited to kneel as able.

 

Holy God, we come to You now to confess the sins of our nation against African-Americans. The weight of our sin crushes us, the horror of it sickens us, the shame of it oppresses us, but we know we find forgiveness, cleansing, and healing for all at Your cross. Come, Holy Spirit, and empower our confession. Help us to seek Your mercy so that Your righteousness can be established and the hope of shalom can dawn in our nation.

 

Father, we acknowledge that the very founders of our nation enslaved Africans. We acknowledge the evil, dehumanizing brutality of the Middle Passage, the slave trade, and the plantation system. We acknowledge the craven selfishness and greed that authorized what became an institution of slavery in this nation. We acknowledge that leaders and members of Your church misused scripture to perversely justify and perpetuate the evil of slavery. We acknowledge that the generations who were born into this system are very close to us, even our grandparents and great-grandparents, and that the unjust creation of wealth and poverty, of prestige and degradation still stand in our culture as a legacy of this evil institution of human enslavement.

 

Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have sinned against You.
Lord, have mercy upon those
who unjustly bear the consequences of our sin.

 

Father, we acknowledge that with the abolishment of legal enslavement, our nation developed new forms of sin and evil intended to continue the subjugation of African-Americans. We acknowledge the deliberate disenfranchisement of African-Americans in every area of legal and political, economic, educational, cultural, and religious life, through Jim Crow laws and unwritten social contracts. We acknowledge the torture and murder of countless precious souls, heinously disguised as vigilante justice.

 

Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have sinned against You.
Lord, have mercy upon those
who unjustly bear the consequences of our sin.

 

Father, we acknowledge that our sins of hatred, fear, and greed have fostered the criminalization of African-Americans. We acknowledge injustice at all levels of what we call our criminal justice system: legislation, policing, prosecution, and incarceration. We acknowledge these evils have formed an assault on the family and community structure of African-Americans that has caused grievous generational destruction. We acknowledge profound and willful economic discrimination that has unjustly oppressed African-Americans. We acknowledge the deceitful and defensive victim-blaming mentality that has accompanied these sins.

 

Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have sinned against You.
Lord, have mercy upon those
who unjustly bear the consequences of our sin.

 

Father, we acknowledge the creation of denigrating and villainizing images of Black men and women that infect every story-telling media, including news, literature, and film. We confess that the images of our hearts have been diseased by our sin-stained culture, sometimes by our consent and sometimes against our will. We confess our feelings of fear, contempt, and animosity towards African-Americans that are the consequence of this sin. We confess we’ve enjoyed and admired the creative fruits of African-American culture without honoring the fullness of who African-Americans are, and without repenting of the injustices that have shaped their culture.

 

Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have sinned against You.
Lord, have mercy upon those
who unjustly bear the consequences of our sin.

 

Father, we confess the racist talk we have heard and participated in, in our families, workplaces, social networks, and churches, actively with our voices and passively through our silence. We confess our sinful yielding to fear that has kept us compliant with the sin of racism in our families, workplaces, and communities.

 

Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have sinned against You.
Lord, have mercy upon those
who unjustly bear the consequences of our sin.

 

Father, in confessing these our sins, we come into agreement with your holiness. Only Your blameless Son could atone for these our sins. We look to You for forgiveness and earnestly desire that His blood might cleanse and heal. We thank you for Your grace that enables us to abhor sin. Have mercy on us Lord that we might hate this sin without hating ourselves or our neighbor. We cannot cleanse this stain from our own hearts, much less from the bodies and souls of those who have been its primary victims, much less from the structures and institutions of our society. We cannot, O God, but You can, and we know it is Your will to show mercy.

 

We are grieved by the harm that continues to happen every day in our nation. We long for the destruction to stop. We long to see Your redemption at work because we love You and we love Your ways. We seek Your healing and restoration for our African-American brothers and sisters because we love them, because You love them and Your love is in us.

 

So now we yield these trespasses, failures and infections to Your cross. We yield the burden of our commissions and omissions to You. We choose to receive Your forgiveness, the undeserved gift of pardon You so freely give. We receive the scandal of Your mercy. Thank You Lord, for separating this sin from us as far as the east is from the west.

 

Take time in silence to yield specific sins, memories, and burdens to the cross.

 

The priest stands and says

 

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who in his great mercy has promised forgiveness of sins to all those who sincerely repent and with true faith turn to him, have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

All standing or seated

 

And now, Lord, we ask for Your protection for our bodies, hearts, and minds. Drive far from us the evil spirit of divisiveness, the evil spirit of devouring and destructiveness. Empower us to walk in Your ways, to witness to Your death and resurrection, to pray and work for the repentance and healing of our nation.

 

Prayers of Petition

From the occasional prayers in the Book of Common Prayer (2019, Anglican Church of North America). Between each prayer, you are invited to pray silently or aloud, as the Spirit leads.

 

For the Unity of all Christian People
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace to take to heart the grave dangers we are in through our many divisions. Deliver your Church from all enmity and prejudice, and everything that hinders us from godly union. As there is one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so make us all to be of one heart and of one mind, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and love, that with one voice we may give you praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God in everlasting glory.  Amen.

 

For the Spirit of Prayer
O Almighty God, you pour out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For the Peace of the World
Almighty God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed: Kindle, we pray, in the hearts of all people the true love of peace, and guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your kingdom may go forward, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For Courts of Justice
Almighty God, you sit on your throne giving righteous judgment: We humbly ask you to bless all courts of justice and all magistrates in this land; give them a spirit of wisdom and understanding, that fearing no power but yours alone, they may discern the truth and impartially administer the law; through him who shall come to be our Judge, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

For the President and All in Civil Authority
O Lord our Governor, whose glory fills all the world: We commend this Nation to your merciful care, that we may be guided by your providence, and dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of this Nation, the Governor of this State [or Commonwealth], and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them continually mindful of their calling to serve this people in reverent obedience to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

 

For Our Nation
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure conduct. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom, in thy Name, we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image, and you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For Social Justice
Almighty God, you created us in your own image: Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and help us to use our freedom rightly in the establishment of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

In Times of Social Conflict or Distress
Increase, O God, the spirit of neighborliness among us, that in peril we may uphold one another, in suffering tend to one another, and in homelessness, loneliness, or exile befriend one another. Grant us brave and enduring hearts that we may strengthen one another, until the disciplines and testing of these days are ended, and you again give peace in our time; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For Those Who Inform Public Opinion
Almighty God, your truth endures from age to age: Direct in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may speak your truth to make the heart of this people wise, its mind discerning, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

For the Acceptance of Prayer
Heavenly Father, you have promised to hear what we ask in the Name of your Son: Accept and fulfill our petitions, we pray, not as we ask in our ignorance, nor as we deserve in our sinfulness, but as you know and love us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Looking to Christ our coming King

 

We look to You, Lord Jesus Christ, forgiver of sins and establisher of righteousness.

 

In the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.  Revelation 1:13-16

 

We rest our hearts on You and watch for Your coming. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

 

—Sarah Colyn and K.C. Ireton