Editor’s note: This prayer by Rev. Harry Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church of Oak Park, recently appeared in the church bulletin:
We thank you, Lord, that you are a living God who is present with us at all times and in all places. We thank you that you are a loving God, not one who is indifferent and uncaring. We thank you that you are a listening God who promises that if we ask anything according to your will you hear us and will grant us whatever we ask. We come before you with our requests, trusting they are in accord with your will and that you will honor them.
We pray for our young black men. You know the threats they face and how many are cut down in their prime. Protect them from danger and violence. May your angels shield them from arrows that wound and kill. Preserve them, not only of body, but also of mind and spirit. Help them to make wise decisions and choose the right paths. Guard their hearts from the effects of frustration that can so easily turn into bitterness and from disappointment that can lead to despair and hopelessness. May they recognize their dignity as individuals created in Your image and understand their identity as Your beloved child.
We pray for police officers. We thank them for their dedication to serve and to protect. We are grateful for their willingness to put their lives on the line and for their noble aspirations to be people who preserve the peace. Protect them from the dangers of the street. Protect them also from the cynicism, hardness and indifference that can so easily take place in their hearts as they daily encounter an evil side of life that few of us ever glimpse. They have been entrusted with great authority and power. We know that rare is the individual who is not tempted to abuse these gifts. Lead them not into temptation. Grant them wisdom and cool heads in tense situations that require split-second decisions.
We pray for white America. Much progress has been made in civil rights, for which we can be grateful. But keep us from complacency. Help us not to minimize or discount the pain of the black experience. Give us an appreciation of what our African-American brothers and sisters have had to endure. May we recognize that racism does not always wear a hood and white sheet. Grant that the images of rioting in Ferguson not reinforce negative stereotypes, but may we see this irruption as evidence of years of pent up frustration over countless indignities and injustices.
Your word says that “all things work together for good.” At present, it is difficult to see what good can come out of this tragic situation. But we trust in your word and we trust in you as we lay these petitions before you.