“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
“Hey Rev,” a familiar voice greeted me as I sipped morning coffee on my door stoop. Jimmy, a NYPD police officer for 12 years, pulled his cop car up and jokingly asked if I would buy coffee for him and his partner; of course I did, meeting them at the corner deli. Chatting on the street, I asked him what was the greatest need for New York City cops these days. Jimmy reminded me that he was a Catholic in good standing, and answered “after last weekend, I think every cop I know needs prayer.” On the July 4th weekend in NYC, there were 64 people shot with 10 dead, three times the amount from last year. The familiar greeting and casual conversation with Jimmy turned to the seriousness of today’s NYC environment of danger, apathy and violence. Even graffiti, which has been almost nonexistent for decades, is now a common site once again. “People are leaving the city ‘Rev,’ those who can, will leave; and I am not sure when or if people will return.” He continued, “Young people are leaving in droves and the streets at night are increasingly dangerous....Yep, Rev, we need your prayers.”
For those who don’t realize it, the NYPD is among the most racially diverse force in the nation. Jimmy has 3 kids, his wife is accountant, and he is a 4th generation cop in NYC. His partner, Delores, is an African American woman; and as I led us in a prayer on the sidewalk, she encouraged me with her punctuated “amens,” as we shared our grief over the death of George Floyd and others. Delores has two children, and both she and her husband are cops.
Prayer for us who follow Christ is not a magical wand that mysteriously brings about changes; rather it reflects a deep desire in our hearts as we ask the Lord to allow us to be a force for good and needed change, that we might be a voice of hope, love, and service in this very broken time in our country and the world.
Pray that we might be an attraction for the Lord, who loves us and calls us by name. Prayer is simply expressing our love for the Lord and “seeking Him for whom our soul longs.” Prayer sustains us in our sorrows, opens our hearts to wisdom, and brings forth reconciliation. In many ways, prayer also motivates us for deep change in ourselves, that we might be guided not by self-interest or comfort, but rather by justice, purpose, and honesty. Prayer is what kept Martin Luther King on message and allowed him to move forward in a dark and terrible time--a time that somehow seems a bit forgotten by a younger generation who did not live in those days of the civil rights movement. Dr. King expressed many times the value of his own personal prayer, which he said gave him hope for justice, hope for change, and hope for our country. The following is an excerpt from Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country.” Perhaps the world is waiting for God’s people to live out the promises of the gospel. ”There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Yours in Christ’s service,