A People's History of Prayer, Poetry, Prayer

a people’s history of prayer: gwendolyn brooks

A People'sHistory of Prayer
The Preacher Ruminates Behind the Sermon

I think it must be lonely to be God. 
Nobody loves a master. No. Despite 
The bright hosannas, bright dear-Lords, and bright 
Determined reverence of Sunday eyes. 

Picture Jehovah striding through the hall 
Of His importance, creatures running out 
From servant-corners to acclaim, to shout 
Appreciation of His merit’s glare. 

But who walks with Him?—dares to take His arm, 
To clap Him on the shoulder, tweak His ear, 
Buy Him a Coca-Cola or a beer, 
Pooh-pooh His politics, call Him a fool? 

Perhaps—who knows?—He tires of looking down. 
Those eyes are never lifted. Never straight. 
Perhaps sometimes He tires of being great 
In solitude. Without a hand to hold.

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A People's History of Prayer

a people’s history of prayer: james baldwin

People's History

 

Untitled

Lord,
            when you send the rain,
            think about it, please,
            a little?
     Do
            not get carried away
            by the sound of falling water,
            the marvelous light
            on the falling water.
        I
            am beneath that water.
            It falls with great force
            and the light
Blinds
            me to the light.

 

Playing by Ear, Praying for Rain: The Poetry of James Baldwin

James Baldwin, poet? But of course.

Bearing the Silence: On James Baldwin and Prayer

 

 

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A People's History of Prayer, Anarchism, Prayer

a people’s history of prayer: an introduction

A People'sHistoryof Prayer

 

Ever since I first heard of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, I have been fascinated with the series. Most recently I read An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Her thoughtful prose and love for the subject has filled me with such intrigue and sorrow for all the ways we have and continue to displace and oppress Native Americans. I highly recommend it to raise one’s social consciousness.

This semester our chapel staff at Union Theological Seminary suggested the theme of prayer. Immediately, A People’s History of Prayer came to mind. I decided to take it on, in which I will, as Walter Benjamin famously wrote, “brush history against the grain” and mine for forgotten/neglected prayers, poems, and/or pleas of the people.

I hope for this project to be weekly, sometimes with commentary and other times just their prayers.

 

 

 

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Christainity, Homelessness, Liberation Theology, Prayer

a prayer for justice

Clarissa Explains White Supremacy

 Oh God of this world and universe,
You constantly surprise us.
You bring about life where there is only death.
You sing to us sweet melodies that comfort those despairing.
And you guide us with hope.

The horrific acts these past few days have made our hearts heavy.
There was a bombing of a Colorado Springs NAACP office.
A group of armed men killed a whole staff of magazine writers in Paris.
And a kosher supermarket hostage situation ended in four deaths.

We are overwhelmed and frustrated.
These terrorists attacks distract us from dealing internally.
As in the US, we need to call out and end racism, white supremacy,
police brutality, economic inequality, homophobia, trans*phobia,
and so much more.

We are overwhelmed and angry
that national news cycles barely covered the NAACP bombing,
that our own President sent condolences the same night the two NYPD officers were killed,
but took days to say a word on Michael Brown.

We know, O God, that our world is unjust.
We are not asking to be rescued,
we are asking for the courage to speak out and act against injustice.
We are not asking to be more “heavenly-minded, that we are no earthly good,”
but that we are a people who show others the alternative life of your Reign.

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who stands in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, Amen.

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anti-war, Prayer, Prison Industrial Complex, Scripture

my prayer for ferguson, brooklyn, and the school of the americas watch

This weekend, a group of students from Union Theological Seminary and myself travelled to Columbus, GA. We gathered with over 1,000 others to protest for the closing of the School of the Americas (SOA). For nearly 70 years, the SOA has trained soldiers in South and Central America in starting coups, mass murdering los campesinos (poor folk and farmers), and killing political and religious leaders (Allende, Che, Oscar Romero). All of this filters through the ideology of anticommunist propaganda. Thousands of people, named and unnamed, have been killed in the name of freedom and democracy. They have been killed because the powerful want to stay powerful and poor lives do not matter.

As the US military teaches oppressive tactics to the South Hemisphere, we enact it on our own soil by killing black women and men. Law enforcement use their power to rule over communities and, more often than not, get away with it. They get away with tearing lives apart with a modern day lynching. For the killings of Michael Brown, Akai Kareem Gurley, and Shantel Davis, we must continue to cry out for justice. Because unless there is justice for Brown, Davis, and Gurley, there won’t be justice for us all.

justice for mike

My prayer is simply that we use our legs to protest to show our government and police officers that they are unjust in how they treat people of color in the US and around the world. Black lives matter! Brown lives matter!

My prayer is that we use our words to encourage one another. Movements die quickly when their members fight over petty differences.

My prayer is that we use our hands. With one hand, we care about the immediate needs of our neighborhoods and communities. You can’t end global poverty without first knowing and lending a hand at local shelters, soup kitchens, and Catholic Workers. With the other hand, to learn, lead discussions, and think globally about racism, sexism, ableism, etc.

Lastly, my prayer is that we use our hearts to connect with one another. In many movements, the key to being in the in-crowd is to know as much as you can about the area of interest. What if we not only focused on knowledge (How does memorizing statistics on NYC poverty help the person sleeping on the street?), but found empathetic ways to connect with one another.

Let us continue to fight against police brutality.

Fight against racism in the US.

Fight against groups that hinder our causes: the KKK, fascist and racist policies.

Fight for all people to have a decent chance at life.

ferguson

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Christainity, Poem, Prayer

somewhere between prayer and revolution

The Flobots penned this lyric, in my title, in the opening line of “Same Thing.” The lyrics continue with “between Jesus and Huey P. Newton.” And on this particular Sunday in the month of October, we find ourselves holding these same tensions. This weekend is #fergusonoctober and I am grateful that many of my peers from Union Theological Seminary are there participating in these actions. As well, yesterday was National Coming Out Day, when those who identify as queer come out as their true selves to family members, friends, and their communities. Last and certainly least, tomorrow is columbus day. Thankfully, a few cities are renaming this day to Indigenous People’s Day.

This weekend raises our awareness that we are not close to having a just society.

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

So I wanted to write a prayer:

God of our world,
We look around us and see injustice everywhere
Our society is overripe with white supremacy,
racism, sexism, ableism, and hatred of the poor.
We ask for your forgiveness because we recognize through scripture
that Jesus cared for all and repented when he did not (Mark 7:25-30)

We pray for those in Ferguson this weekend with #fergusonoctober
our hearts are on fire for Michael Brown and his loved ones.
our hearts are on fire that Darren Wilson will feel convicted and turn himself in.
our hearts are on fire for a movement that rejects colorblindness for real talk about racism.

We pray for the strength for those who come out to their family and friends
we pray that queer persons find supportive communities
we pray an end to queer youth being kicked out on the street
we pray that queer person know that they are beloved by God

We pray for Indigenous communities living in the US and around the world
may their cultures stand firm in the face of colonization
may they continually decolonize from white supremacy
may they find hope in their communities

God, we pray for the end to all war
an end to poverty,
and an end to apathy.
May we follow you in the ways of justice and peace. Amen.

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Christainity, Liberation Theology

prayer for a people in the throes of martyrdom

This prayer is from Fernando Bermúdez’ Death and Resurrection in Guatemala (1986, pgs 74-75). Its words resonate with my holy longing for social justice in America. I updated some of the language and emphasized where I thought was appropriate.

Lord, may your Gospel be for me not a book,
but Good News, lived and shared.
May I not be embittered by oppression.
May I speak more of hope than of calamities.

May my denunciation be first subjected to discernment,
in community,
brought before you in profound prayer,
and uttered without arrogance,
not as an instrument of aggression,
but neither with timidity and cowardice.

May I never resign myself to the exploitation of the poor,
in whatever form it may come.
   Help me to be subversive of any unjust order.
Help me to be free,
and to struggle for the freedom of the oppressed.

May I never become accustomed to the suffering of the martyrs
and the news that my brothers and sisters are enduring
persecution,
but may their lives and witness ever move me to conversion
and to a greatest loyalty to the kin-dom.

May I accept my church with an ever growing love
and with Christian realism.

May I not reject it for its faults,
but feel myself committed to renew it,
and help it be what you, Lord, want it to be.

May I fear not death, but infidelity to hope and justice.

Oh God, hear our prayer.

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