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A Call to Prayer for the Nation

January 13, 2021
Colin Watson

Where do We Go From Here – Chaos or community? This is the title of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fourth and final book. It is a book of hope, even in the face of all of the significant events of the 1960s. And the question is still relevant for us today.

One year following the release of this book, in 1968, Dr. King was assassinated. After this act, it seemed that American society devolved into chaos in the aftermath.

Here we are in 2021, and two days ago, as I celebrated my birthday on January 6, I again witnessed the explosion of chaos. This time, an occupying force descended on the Capitol in Washington DC. As in 1968, we live in a divided country, and the question remains, what do we want to choose – chaos or community?

Unfortunately, it seems that we keep choosing chaos. Why? Perhaps some prefer chaos if community means loving certain others with whom we continually disagree. But God has a different approach, and different way. He calls us to be people that follow his way.

Even as I write this, I’m aware that there will be some who disagree with the sentiments expressed here. I ask that despite our differences, we all “pray continually” as we read this.

What happened?

In the aftermath of the U.S. elections of November 3, 2020, and after exhausting all legal challenges to the results, some leaders continued to assert that the election results needed to be overturned. This insistence, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, escalated in words, in the courts, and on the streets. It culminated in violence, a riotous assembly, and an insurrection impacting the Capitol in Washington D.C.

Some have made comparisons between this insurrection and earlier protests, marches and assemblies in response to unrepentant injustices. They have pointed to a double standard in the treatment of protesters by law enforcement.

We are left to wonder why?

Why It Happened

Historians and others will revisit and dissect various reasons for the events of January 6, 2021. And we know, there are usually many reasons for moments of discord. As Christians, we can point to the sin with which we all must contend. What I see is a decision by all of us not to live in community – a decision that seems to repeat itself from generation to generation. And, as Dr. King implied, a decision not to live in community will end in chaos. This is where we are.

Who Are We

As Christians, we are called to be salt and light in our society. Unfortunately, all too often, we instead are responsible for rubbing salt into the wounds of society. And for this we must lament. We must repent.

Amid the cries of this moment, I hear the plea of some leaders that, “this is not who we are.” The sad truth however, is that this is who we are. We are sinful people. The Bible reminds us that we need the Lord to help us to be different. It is only by God’s grace, and through his incarnation and resurrection, that he gives us the ability to be different. We must affirmatively act differently and pursue his justice so that we can be the true meaning of salt and light.

What to Do

I call on all of us to spend time in prayer and to commit to re-engage with each other and with our neighbors over the weekend in the coming days. I ask that we do so in a way that demonstrates the power of community over chaos.

Pray – find a group of Christians, which includes people with whom you disagree on political or ideological matters. Preferably, this should include people of a different culture, race or generation. And pray with them.

Many of our churches are arranging for structured prayer times, and I would encourage you to take advantage of that. In addition, the following are additional opportunities for prayer –

  • I invite all pastors, church staff, denominational staff, and leaders of our churches across North America to join us in praying for one another, our churches, our denomination, our communities and our countries on Wednesday, January 13. The Prayer Gathering will be held at 11 am EST or 2 pm EST. Please sign up via this Google Form for the Zoom Link.   If you would like to join the movement and help serve in various ways, or if you have any questions, please email [email protected]
  • The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is recommending a weekend of prayer and fasting starting today – the NAE joins with member denominations and others in calling for a Weekend of Prayer & Fasting for the Healing of the Nation on January 8–10, 2021.
  • Watch and/or share this prayer written by Stephanie Summers and the Center for Public Justice, and read by the Office of Social Justice's interim Director Mark Stephenson.
  • Read this statement and call to prayer from Calvin Theological Seminary president, Jul Medenblik.

Engage – I also encourage you to engage deeply with your diverse community. Hopefully, this may even turn members into becoming prayer partners with each other. Let’s tell the truth – to ourselves, to our communities, and also to those in authority.

I recognize that this, too, is an area that will uncover many topics upon which we may not agree. It is nevertheless critical that we take an opportunity for engagement. Let’s not stop at saying the words, let’s progress to doing the deeds.

We didn’t get here because of unkind and uncivil words alone. Thoughts progressed to words – words progressed to deeds – and on January 6, 2021, deeds escalated into violence. Our response must be recommitment to have God purify our thoughts, influence our words and deeds, and allow us to demonstrate love for others through tangible action. So let’s begin – with renewing our minds – in prayer.

Colin P Watson Sr.
Executive Director of the CRCNA