Joy Prayer

Pastoral Prayer, December 13, 2015
Broadway Baptist Church
Rev. Chris Caldwell, Pastor

Across our city and across our nation, in about one in every ten churches, there will be today special anniversary celebrations--celebrations of a 150th anniversary that might have slipped by unnoticed by some of us.  These African American churches will be joyfully celebrating the passage of the 13th amendment, which ended forever the practice of buying and selling their great-great-grandparents, a practice known as slavery.

Here is what House Speaker Paul Ryan said at the anniversary celebration in Washington: The Thirteenth Amendment is just 43 words long. It is so short that, when you read it, you can almost miss the whole significance. You have to stop and remind yourself that 600,000 people died in the Civil War—600,000 died over 43 words. Or to be more precise, they died in a war that decided whether those 43 words would ever be written.

Let us pray

It comes as something of a surprise, O God, that captives, who for more than 200 years in our nation, were shackled and sold, would in large numbers adopt the faith of their captors.  It is hard to fathom how a race could adopt as scripture a book wherein a Christian slave is enjoined to return to his Christian owner.

Yet the joyful embrace of the Christian faith by our African American sisters and brothers teaches us something: that joy is as much a choice as it is a gift.

Sometimes joy finds us; but sometimes we choose joy.
Sometimes we are joyful because of, but other times we are joyful in spite of.

For centuries white folks have watched black folks embrace unbridled joy in worship, and have wondered why they might appear to be acting the fool, not knowing that the celebration was not an act of foolishness, or of denial--as if to say that life was not hard and at times cruel--but rather that the celebration was an act of defiance: a refusal to be shackled by the limits of what could be seen this side of the horizon, and an insistence on choosing the way of hope rather than bitterness.

Help us, Lord, to learn from their faith.  Help us to choose joyful thanks for what we have, rather than petty complaining about what we don’t have.

Help us to choose joyful faith in the hope of what can be, rather than jaded grumbling about our frustration with what merely is.

Lord, we do not come asking you to help us pretend.  We do not wish to pretend that storm clouds are sunshine.  But we do ask to be granted the faith of knowing you are our shelter in the storm and our strength beyond the chaos.

Lord, we do not come asking you to help us pretend.  We do not wish to pretend that our families are perfect or our days are flawless.  But we do ask to be granted thankful hearts for families or others who love us, and we do ask to find joy even in imperfect days.

Help us, Lord, to choose to see joy 

Joy in music heard in church.
Joy in laughter heard on the street.
Joy in the promise of those helping the youngest begin to walk.
Joy in the faithfulness of those helping the oldest continue to walk.
Joy in good books.
Joy in good friends.
Joy in a baby in a manger.
Joy in your love for us.