We all have much to learn about the priority of prayer as it relates to race relations. The Scriptures teach us that the key to oneness and love for all mankind is prayer.
Jesus told His disciples “that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1) and prays toward oneness among His followers (John 17:21). Paul also wrote to young Timothy saying, “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men . . . I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 2:1, 8). 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is a call for believers to live a life of prayer or to “pray continually.” The early church overcame ethnic barriers as they prayed (Acts 10-11).
We also learn from the way believers and churches have responded to race-related issues in the past. In Charleston, S.C., when a young white male went into an African-American church and murdered nine parishioners during a Bible study everyone braced for racial tensions and disunity to soar. What happened instead was prayer.
Pastors and churches from various denominations and ethnicities gathered in downtown common areas to pray. Those promoting violence and anarchy were silenced because those that gathered were praying. The community came together in oneness, crossing racial and ethnic lines. Despite this horrific tragedy and senseless act of hatred, the end result was not only a spirit of peace and oneness among believers, but people were also reconciled to one another and the Lord through salvation and forgiveness. Only God could do this.
Below are four biblical ways to pray toward race relations:
- Pray toward repentance, brokenness and humility before God.
Biblical repentance and brokenness before the Lord over our lack of oneness as believers is at the heart of healthy race relations. Joel 2:13 says, “Rend your hearts, and not your garments.” Acts 3:19 says, “Repent and return, that your sins may be blotted out.” A believer’s relationships with and attitudes toward others should always flow out of their humble relationship with God. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). Brokenness and humility before God produces wisdom to know how to live life from God’s perspective. Psalm 25:9 says, “He [God] guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” God’s perspective on race relations is always best and should be the starting point for every believer.
- Pray toward righteousness not race.
A pure and holy life before God results in righteous living. David cried out in Psalm 51:10-13, “Create within me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Jesus calls His followers to a righteous and holy life when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matt. 5:8). A repentant and holy heart will result in a holy life. A holy life will result in righteous responses and attitudes concerning relationships.
- Pray toward God’s agape love for all mankind.
Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 “May the Lord make your Love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a says “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” God’s agape love is outflowing and sacrificial — it always places the other person’s interests first. When Christians exercise agape love toward others there is no room for racism or unjust practices to exist in relationships.
- Pray toward forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption.
Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Forgiveness produces a ripe environment for reconciliation and restoration to take place in broken relationships. God’s kingdom marches forward and His redemptive purposes are accomplished not only as believers are reconciled to God and others but also as they recognize their calling to become His instruments and messengers of reconciliation to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
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