Events of this past week since George Floyd’s death in police custody, coming on top of cries for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, shot while jogging, have been weighing heavily on my heart. It is hard to write; I don’t know what to say. The blog post on growing fresh herbs that I had been planning now seems trite, a mockery even, amidst death, injustice, and growing civil unrest.
Questions of personal responsibility during this time—What should I be doing now?—plague my mind, along with concern for peace and order in our country.
There are so many voices, so many perspectives. So many claim, “This is how to bring justice and equality.” But not all of them are right, or righteous. We need, first of all, a heart to esteem justice, but second, a heart to discern—out of all the voices—what is best and right.
Continuing in comfort and apathy during these times is not helpful. Neither is reacting in rage and lawlessness. God’s people need to be in prayer so that we can act rightly, walking in the spirit.
I know that prayer is not a substitute for righteous action. But I also know that prayer needs to come first, to bring clarity and direction and to prepare our hearts with God’s perspective. At all times, but especially during times of civil unrest, we need our hearts aligned with God’s—hearts tuned to seek justice and mercy, not revenge, and to speak out of love, not hate.
How Do We Pray During Civil Unrest?
This past week I did not know how to pray. As the Spirit brings Scripture to mind, my prayers are gaining focus. The following verses may not have immediate connections to our current situation, but they do present important messages for us to ponder.
Let’s consider God’s perspective as we pray and as we navigate these times. Let’s allow God’s heart and His truth to shape our thinking, our speech, and our actions:
Recognizing God’s Sovereignty
“My times are in your hands….” (Psalm 31:15)
“…he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)
“When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6)
“…the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes….” (Daniel 4:17)
“His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)
Praying for our Leaders
“By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.” (Proverbs 29:4)
“I urge, then first of all that request, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
Praying for the Helpless and Oppressed
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him…. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused….” (Exodus 22:21-24)
“Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
Praying for the Wrongdoers
“The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret….” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Praying for Peace
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city…. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy….” (Hebrews 12:14)
Praying for Justice
“The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” (Psalm 11:4-5)
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’” (Zechariah 7:9)
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy….” (Amos 5:14-15)
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5: 24)
Praying for Mercy
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
“But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23)
Praying for Wisdom
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
Praying for Humility
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)
“Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
Praying for Love
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)
“…love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
“The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)
Praying for Righteous Responses
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19)
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19-21)
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)
O Lord God,
You see what is happening in our country. It is horrifying to watch videos of men struck down and killed for no good reason. It is reassuring to see so many calling for justice. But it is also horrifying to watch racial tensions and pent-up frustrations over past injustices exploding in raging lawlessness in our cities.
Lord, have mercy on our country. Teach us to be people of mercy.
I pray for peace. There is chaos, there is hatred, and there is the threat of our nation spiraling into instability. We need peace. Establish order in our nation, and secure Your peace in our hearts.
Lord God, you are a God of truth and justice. Help our leaders to discern carefully, to make right judgments, and to pursue justice for all. Root out any corruption that hinders justice. You care about even a sparrow falling. Help us to care about others even when their plights don’t directly affect us.
Father God, help us to have humble hearts, willing to listen, willing to learn, willing to care. Teach us to love one another deeply, as Jesus did.
When it feels like our country is about to fall apart, divided by hatred, help us remember that You are on your throne. Nations may rage, but you are still God. Help us look for what you might be doing. What are your plans in all this chaos? What do you want to accomplish in our country? What are you calling upon your people to do at this time?
Oh, God, we need you. May your people seek you now more than ever.