I recently heard a friend of mine, Pastor Jamey Van Gelder of The House Church in Eagan, MN, share a picture that the Lord had given him. He was praying, ‘Lord, what are you saying at this moment, prophetically speaking?’ He began to see something, and a picture began to emerge. He saw the hand of the Lord, running through the soil, coming underneath something, forcing it to the surface. It was a demonic root that had begun to be exposed, and it included racism that was being rooted out.
In America, we are in the midst of a traumatic season, that emerged out of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spreading across the nation and even around the world. God is exposing the roots of racism in our nation. Many people, especially Christians, are asking, “What are we to do in light of the charges of systemic racism?” There is no easy answer to that question, but let me suggest where we can begin.
BE HUMBLE, HONEST, RECOGNIZING THAT RACISM HAS BEEN AND STILL IS A PROBLEM IN AMERICA
Let us start with an example from the past. Until a few weeks ago, very few people have ever heard of the ‘Tulsa Race Massacre,’ which happened on May 31st and June 1st, 1921. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses in the Greenwood District. It has been called ‘the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.’ The attack carried out on the ground and from private aircraft destroyed more than 35 square blocks in the district, which at the time was the wealthiest black community in the United States known as ‘Black Wall Street.’ Up to 300 died in the massacre.
‘In 1996, seventy-five years after the massacre, a bipartisan group in the state legislature authorized a commission to study the ‘Tulsa Race Riots.’ The full report stated that the city had conspired with the mob of white citizens against the black citizens’ (wikipedia.com).
This event is one part of American history that has not been told. It is only in light of current events that people are now hearing about such events and there are many.
We need to be humble and honest to recognize that these events took place in our history, going back even further to 400 years ago with the advent of slavery in the nation. We need to recognize that slavery occurred, not just in America, but all around the world. However, we need to deal with the American aspect of slavery. We can not go back and undo what has happened. What can we do, especially as people often say, ‘Well, that was then. We don’t feel that way today!’ Let us go back to the Bible and look at a story that sheds light on how we are to act in such circumstances as exist today.
Please note that I do not deny that there are many reasons why Black America is what it is today, including the development of an over-dependence on the government: the problem of countless fatherless black families: the educational system, especially in the inner cities; the high rate of black on black crime, etc. No, I am merely asking that we look at what we, especially white Christians believers, can and should do.
The book of Nehemiah gives one of the great prayers of the Bible. At the time, Israel faced significant problems regarding the city of Jerusalem. Following the Babylonian conquest, Jerusalem had been sacked and burnt. Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer, a responsible position in the King’s Court. Some people from Jerusalem informed Nehemiah about both the state of the Jews wTho had survived captivity and also the state of the city of Jerusalem, that the walls were broken down, and the gates burned with fire.
What does Nehemiah do? He sat down and wept and mourned, not just for a moment, but for many days. He fasted. He prayed, and he sought the Lord. His prayer, recorded in Nehemiah 1, is extraordinary, as he identifies with the sins of a past generation of people; sins that he was not personally responsible for; sins that occurred when he was not yet alive.
What did he do? Nehemiah identified with the sinful actions and events of past generations. Hear his words as they speak to us as to what we are meant to do today!
“I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.”
Nehemiah had an awareness of the sovereignty of God, who acts according to His promises. The intercessory prayer that followed was not, ‘They have sinned,’ but rather ‘We have sinned.’ Nehemiah was identifying with the past generations, not separating himself from them. He was linking himself to them and praying for forgiveness and restoration.
That is how we are meant to pray today! We are all part of a nation that has failed in significant ways in how we have treated the African Americans. This also applies to Native Americans and the way they have been treated.
We need to humble ourselves; be honest; acknowledge that there are ‘skeletons in our closet;’ come before the sovereign Lord of all, in the name of His Son, who humbled Himself when He came and died in our place; seeking forgiveness for the sins of the past as well as what still exists today.
I have a dream, a dream of ‘What if?’ What if individual Christians, churches, or groups of churches right across America were to have a day of Identificational Repentance, where we sought the Lord for the healing of our nation. Maybe even a week, a season of time, or even longer. Remember, Nehemiah prayed for at least three months.
The emphasis at the moment is on political action regarding how police act, but essential as that may be, that alone will not bring about the needed change. What we need is a change of heart, because at the root of it is a heart attitude, beginning with repentance.
There are some plans in place for National Days of Prayer. For example, Jonathan Cahn, author of the Harbinger, has announced a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance, know as ‘The Return’ on Saturday, September 26, 2020, on the Washington Mall, in our nation’s capital. It is to be a moment for prayer, repentance, and revival (charisma news.com).
Church, in accordance with 2 Chronicles 7:14, ‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ It is time to pray. Let us seek God and pray for repentance and healing in our land!