We are saddened by the horrific photo on Governor Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and the recurring pain and sinfulness of racism in our Commonwealth. As people of faith we condemn the sin of racism in our midst and yet pray for change, forgiveness, and healing for our leaders and us.
Below are some prayers from our many faith traditions and religious leaders in Virginia that you may find helpful for personal prayer, reflection, or services in the coming days.
Written today by Rev. Rodney M. Hunter, Pastor of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, and co-executive director, VICPP
Healing for the Nation
God our creator and redeemer, today we cry out to You from the depths of our souls to ask You to heal our nation and Commonwealth from our sins—past and present. Some of our past actions have caused great pain and suffering to many people of varying race, color, creed and nationalities.
We pray for our leaders who may have oppressed and caused injustice rather than healing. Lord, reach deeply into our hearts and set us free from our racial hatred of others who may differ from us. Lord, help us to be as quick to forgive, as we are to condemn. Lord, hear our prayers, and make us instruments of love and peace.
Written today by Rev. Dr. Faith B. Harris, adjunct faculty for The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University and chair, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light
When our leaders fail, we turn our hope towards family, community, and the ever-present spirit to renew and restore our hope.
We need wisdom and strength during this time of crisis and uncertainty.
Be with our leaders and with us all to provide confidence and vision for the future of our state and county. Amen.
Jewish “Prayer for our Country”
Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings upon our country, and upon the leaders of our nation and of our communities. Inspire all who lead and serve to conduct their affairs honorably. May peace and security, happiness and prosperity, right and freedom abide among us. Unite the inhabitants of our country, of all backgrounds and creeds, so that we may banish hatred and bigotry, safeguard our noblest ideals, and preserve those institutions that nurture liberty.
May this land under Your Providence be an influence for good throughout the world, helping to unite all peoples in peace and freedom, and bringing closer to fulfillment the visions of Your prophets: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more.” “For the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness calm and confidence forever.” Amen.
(from Siddur Haddash, for Sabbath & Festival Services, Rabbi Sidney Greenberg & Rabbi Jonathan D. Levine)
Written today by Ms. Mary Phillips (Laguna Pueblo/Omaha)
Creator, we pray for those making a sacrifice today to fend off the work of people to turn us against each other, may their courage give us strength, and their hope be carried by your winds across this country. May they find peace in their journey to reconcile long-held prejudices. We pray for those before us creator, who have suffered from the irresponsible acts of our leaders that seek to bring intolerance, instead of finding true connection to the people they live and breathe life with, today we give prayer.
Creator, pity us! May we find the strength to stand in humbleness for our great grandchildren for many generations to come, so they may walk mother earth gently without the remnants of prejudice and the ills that keep us from being just with our neighbors and relatives.
Written today by Rev. John D. Copenhaver, United Methodist Church
Loving Creator, you have made persons of every nation, religion, race, sexual orientation, and gender in your divine image. Forgive us for ever believing that our race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, tribe or nation enjoyed your special favor or was deserving of special privileges. Remind us once again of our common humanity and vulnerability–what injures or harms one, harms us all.
As residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia, we acknowledge our painful history of violence and oppression of native people and people of color. Our state led the southern states in efforts to preserve the vile institution of slavery, and following that, instituted Jim Crow laws to maintain white privilege and oppress minorities. This history follows us into the present in monuments to leaders of this oppression and in Jim Crow laws that are still on the books.
The repugnant photo on the yearbook page of Governor Northam painfully reminds us of this history. Though we have made some progress through the Civil Rights movement, we are still far from the Beloved Community envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are grateful that the Commonwealth of Virginia has recognized 2019 as “The Year of Reconciliation and Civility” and pray that this year we will fearlessly expose our racist history and begin the hard work of correcting injustices. Strengthen and embolden all those working for racial reconciliation built of the firm foundation of justice. We pray in the spirit of love made manifest in diverse faith traditions. Amen.
From the Episcopal Common Book of Prayer – For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the Episcopal Common Book of Prayer – for Social Justice
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Muslim Prayers of Supplication
O Allah! Forgive me all my sins, great and small, the first and the last, those that are apparent and those that are hidden. [Muslim 1:350]. O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for all my sins. I ask You to forgive me for all my wrongdoings against people that You have recorded, for there are many rights and dues owed to Your servants that I am burdened with and for which I owe. O Allah, even if these (wrongdoings) are many they are insignificant in comparison with the magnitude of Your forgiveness. O Allah, any male or female servant of Yours who has rights upon me, in either that I have unjustly taken from him in regards to his land, possession, honor, body; whether he was absent or present; or he or his representatives demanded it from me and neither was I able to return it to him nor did I seek release of it from him.
So I ask You through Your benevolence, generosity, and abundance of what You possess that You satisfy them on my behalf, and not give them a position over me that will decrease my good deeds; for You possess what You can satisfy them with on my behalf and I do not possess what to satisfy them with; and do not allow for their bad deeds to find a path over my good deeds on the Day of Judgment.
[From ‘The Prayers of Forgiveness that Save from the Hellfire’ by Hasan al-Basri]
Written today by Rev. Julio Hernandez and Rev. Leah Grundset Davis
God of Love, Today we confess we are not in harmony and if we are honest, we have never been. The colonized beginnings of Virginia are rooted in injustice, slavery, and exploitation. We acknowledge the Native Peoples of this land we call Virginia. We in the State of Virginia are called to confront our deep history of racism and discord.
It is written in the Psalms:
How very good and pleasant it is
When kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head (Psalm 133:1,2b)
Open our hearts to those in the Commonwealth who lack justice. Light in us a fire for freedom and justice in our communities. For those who are under the weight of oppression, Wake us to their struggle. Draw us closer in community to the poor and oppressed no matter their status, color or creed. We ask that you open our eyes to the ways we ourselves have participated in this system of injustice so that we can repent and believe the good news. Dismantle the structures that bind and deprive people of their basic humanity. May the light of truth set us free!
In this attitude of repentance and humility draw us closer to our fellow human. May we move inspired to love in action. Help us to listen to the call of face-to-face reconciliation that we are required to do. Like the Good Samaritan may you pour the oil of healing in our wounds of racism, oppression, and injustice. Heal, us O’ Gracious Healer. We seek your wisdom that we may build greater solidarity with our common human being. Make us into a community that is precious oil that flows from the unity shared among the people of Virginia. With hearts full of hope we pray, Amen.
Written today by Rev. Dr. Anthony Fludd, St. Johns Church of God and Christ, Newport News
We intercede for the unity of this nation and come against any prejudice and racial discrimination aimed toward any group of people within our culturally diverse communities, state, and/or nation. We focus our prayers on the positive qualities of our leaders in hopes that the negative qualities bend towards one seeking forgiveness. By faith, let our prayers break vicious cycles of hatred and evil. May we focus on the positive qualities, for the sake of healing. Let no one judge, but seek God‘s mercy. Amen.
Written today by Rev. Charles Swadley, former associate minister, Williamsburg United Methodist Church
Almighty God, as we gather in the worship of Christ, our Lord, and Savior, celebrating your redeeming love and grace, we acknowledge our human frailty and confess our inclinations to hide our sins from you. Today, we are acutely aware of that odious human sin of bias and prejudice, which has been bred into our culture and has seeped into the deep core of our most secret inner being denigrating and infecting our humanity like a lethal disease.
We confess our corporate and individual acts and conceiving of racism. May your Spirit prompt us to self-examination, confession, and sincere repentance to lead us toward a life worthily reflecting your love and grace. For our public servants, held to a higher degree of accountability in their service, grant them and us the faith to view redemptive change with joy and hope and to pursue vigorously new paths of right living and justice to all our neighbors. Amen.
In Faith and Love,
Ms. Kim Bobo and Pastor Rodney Hunter
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy