Reprint: A Prayer for Martin Luther King Day
So I present the first prayer to you, "A Prayer for the King Holiday" by the Reverend Dr. Randolph Nugent:
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.