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Prayer and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Spiritual Resources for use in celebrating the life of the civil rights leader

From Coretta Scott King:

Prayer was a wellspring of strength and inspiration during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the movement, we prayed for greater human understanding. We prayed for

the safety of our compatriots in the freedom struggle. We prayed for victory in our nonviolent protests, for brotherhood and sisterhood among people of all races, for reconciliation and the fulfillment of the Beloved Community.

For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.

I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough.

After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: "Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can't face it alone.

Later he told me, "At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: 'Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'" When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.

--Coretta Scott King from "Standing in the Need of Prayer" as published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.



A General Prayer

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- source unknown

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Gracious God, you create us and love us; you make us to live together in a community. We thank you for Martin Luther King, Jr. and all your children who have been filled with your vision for our lives and who have worked to make bring your vision into reality. Fill us with your vision. Guide us to live by your vision, working to build the beloved community where everyone is welcomed, all are valued, power is shared, privilege is no more, and all your children know wholeness and well-being. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

-- source unkown

Prayer for a Martin Luther King Day Celebration

God of our forebears and our God, who has summoned women and men throughout the ages to be thy witnesses and sometimes martyrs for thee, we bow before thee this day in remembrance and thanksgiving for the life and legacy of thy servant, witness and martyr, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We thank thee for his time among us, for his words and for his deeds, and for the quality of his living witness which eases the pain of recalling the brevity of his years. We rejoice in his example of obedient faith and the scenes and stations of his life which inform and enrich our own faith journeys. And we beseech thee this day for the strength, steadfastness and courage not only to remember but also to obey.

We remember the footsteps of Dr. King: walking everywhere in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott; sidestepping snarling dogs, swinging billy clubs, and torrential fire hoses in Birmingham; charting a King's highway in the desert wastelands of bigotry and hatred from Selma to Montgomery, from Memphis to Jackson, from Chicago to Cicero; walking ever and always where Jesus walked among the lonely and the lost; the downtrodden and the outcast; those denied their dignity and robbed of their rights. Lord, guide and enable us to follow his footsteps that we too may be found in those places of danger, division, discord and sorrow where love is so desperately needed but so painfully absent. Let us hear and feel anew the words of the old freedom song beckoning us to faith commitment in community with our fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, saying, "Walk together children, and don't get weary."

We remember the gentle, patient courage of Dr. King, as he made the teachings of Jesus the literal rule for loving: refusing the temptation to render an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth but rendering instead good for evil; nonviolently offering the other cheek to those who, blinded by hate, taunted and loving those who chose to be his enemies and persecutors; following his Lord in showing the greatest love of all by laying down his life for others. Lord, give us the courage to live by what we say we believe and to accept the teachings of Christ as codes of conduct rather than mere words of inspiration.

We remember the restless and unrelenting commitment of Dr. King, as he refused to barter justice or compromise thy Word; insisting that the demand for justice, freedom and human dignity applies to all thy children in Southeast Asia as well as the South Bronx, and throughout the two-thirds of thy creation where injustice and oppression preserve the privilege of the other third. Lord, save us from the temptation to be satisfied with partial fulfillment and limited expression of thy truth. Help us both to love our neighbors and also to see the whole world as our neighborhood.

O God, fashion and mold our memories into a guiding vision for active discipleship, so that we may not only long and yearn for thy coming kingdom but may also recognize its arrival and presence in the risen Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, in whose blessed name we pray. Amen.


-- The Reverend Dr. Randolph Nugent
General Secretary, Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Churck

A Litany of Celebration

LEADER: Martin King had a dream. The ideals of justice and freedom and the belief that all are created equal in the eyes of God are noble principles. But they are meaningless unless they become the personal possession of each one of us.

ALL: For Zion's sake I will not keep silent. I will struggle with myself. I will not rest until the dream of justice and freedom becomes my personal dream. I must realize that I am not an innocent bystander. I can help realize the dream by my action, or delay it by in inaction.

LEADER: Martin's dream of a day when people from all races and nations, eve the offsprings of slaves and former slave owners, can sit at a table as brothers and sisters and find ways of transforming their differences into assets. That was Martin's dream. What is your dream?

ALL: My dream is that one day soon I will find a way to stop just celebrating the dream and start living it. It must become a part of my daily life; or nothing much will change.

LEADER: The dream is not about an ideal world; it is about the real world. Martin King's poetic refrain, "I Have a Dream," is a call for us to remember the real world where injustice abounds.

ALL: When I am in the shelter of my home I must remember the homeless. When I eat, I must remember the hungry. When I feel secure I must remember the insecure. When I see injustice I must remember that it will not stop unless I stop it.

LEADER: I have a dream!

ALL: I also have a dream. I have a dream that the Holy Spirit will arouse in me that very flame of righteousness that caused Martin King to become a living sacrifice for the freedom and liberation of all of God's Children. Then I will be able to resist racial injustice everywhere I see it, even within myself.

-- The United Presbyterian Church

An Affirmation of Faith Based on the Writings of Dr. King

I refuse to believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.

I refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war, that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible.

I believe there is an urgent need for people to overcome oppression and violence, without resorting to violence and oppression.

I believe that we need to discover a way to live together in peace, a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of this way is love.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. I believe that right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

I believe that what self-centered people have torn down, other-centered people can build up.

By the goodness of God at work within people, I believe that brokenness can be healed. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid."

-- The United Presybterian Church

For more resources, photos, links, documents, sermons and other materials relating to Dr. King

 

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
  CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.