This blog is part of our 2021 Prayer Series, inspired and guided by Luke 11:09.
Praying for Justice
Last month, we started a prayer series on the Stadia Blog that will continue throughout 2021. This series will highlight a monthly prayer theme, which will guide our commitment to pray daily at 11:09. It is inspired by Luke 11:9: “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” This month, our prayer focus is justice.
As humans, we instinctively desire fairness, equality, and opportunity. Everyone wants to live in a world that is just. In 2020, the desire for justice reached its tipping point as Americans watched George Floyd’s cry for justice join the echoes of many others: “I can’t breathe…” In response to this spectacle of injustice, massive protests emerged in almost every major city around the country. As a follower of Christ, I was saddened because this cultural moment revealed that the Church was ill-prepared to respond in unity to the systemic injustices that plague our nation.
Our disunity has diluted our common witness and weakened the big “C” Church’s cultural influence. Many people are left to wonder: “What does it look like for the church to live faithfully in these divided times?”
The church must, first and foremost, commit itself to a posture of prayer. However, as Christ followers, we are not merely called to gather and pray for justice, but we are also sent out into the world to act justly.
The Old Testament prophet, Micah, clearly challenges us with these words:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. 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).
The Bible presents justice as the outworking of God’s character and the fruit of a life consumed by the Gospel. Jesus models this when he proclaims justice as the very message the Spirit of God has anointed him to announce:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19).
As followers of Jesus, filled with the same Spirit, our lives must be an announcement of the good news that justice has arrived.
The words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remind us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This quote has often been repeated to illuminate the sovereignty of God on many dark nights of injustice. The ill-effect of this repetition has been the production of an idle hope that God will enact justice without the need of human participation. However, King used this phrase to encourage freedom fighters to actively stay the course of non-violent resistance to the evil powers that prop up racism, inequality, segregation, poverty, and other forms of injustice. In other words, King believed that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice because people, led by God’s Spirit, committed themselves to be benders of the arc.
King was filled with hope because he saw the mighty hand of God at work through civil rights activists like Ida B. Wells, John Lewis, and Ruby Bridges. Wells was a journalist who used the power of written word to shed light on the dark forces of injustice. She once wrote: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Lewis was a civil rights activist who marched alongside King on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. He used his body, which was beaten, gassed and spat upon, as leverage to help bend the universe’s arc towards justice. He had a penchant for making trouble — what he called “good trouble” — in the name of justice. Bridges was only a 6-year-old girl when police escorted her into a newly desegregated public school in Louisiana. Angry white parents and community members lined the streets to protest Bridges’ access to an equal and integrated public-school education. As the first African American to integrate a public school in the south, Bridges sacrificed her childhood innocence as leverage to bend the arc of the universe towards justice.
These civil rights activists and many others dot the horizon of history as benders of the arc. Why? Because they, like the prophets who lived before them, imagined a more just world. For them, imagination was not a mindless practice analogous to daydreaming. Instead, it was the prophetic practice of seeing a redeemed and restored world. It was the practice of seeing what God sees and dreaming God-sized dreams. It was a powerful practice that would not allow them to simply sit idly and wait for God to enact justice.
The pathway to a more just world is not always immediately clear and those who pursue it will surely make missteps and mistakes along the way. The good news is: God is not calling us to have it all figured out, but to take the next step towards justice.
My challenge to you is to pray as Luke 11:9 entreats us – to “ask, seek, and knock” with a posture of openness: “God help me to see how I can courageously pursue justice in my community.” Then, in partnership with God, go forth and act justly.
Wesley Bolden has ministry training and experience in church revitalization, campus ministry, leadership and church planting. In 2013, he partnered with Stadia to plant Tri-Cities Church, a multiethnic church in metro Atlanta. Wesley is passionate about empowering church planters to discover and live into their unique gifting and calling. During his free time, he loves to get outside, listen to podcast and drink good coffee.