Friday, September 21, 2007

"He watching over [us] slumbers not nor sleeps": Du Bois, Jena, and Friday Prayers

Many continue to stand in solidarity with those in Jena. I find encouragement from the spiritual musings of W.E.B. Du Bois, and so I offer these prayers (The page numbers below refer to this book].

Although they were written nearly a century ago, the words, ideas, and petitions that comprise these prayers—like so much of Du Bois’s work—remain as relevant and as salient as ever. This is further attestation to Du Bois’s role as an American prophet. As the liturgy says, “Lord, hear our prayers……”

1. A prayer for the Jena DA and other decision makers involved in the case:

Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the words of men’s mouths, or our own lives. Mighty causes are calling us—the freeing of women, the training of children, the putting down of hate and murder and poverty—all these and more. But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifice and death. Mercifully grant to us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we say, I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish—Amen. Esther 4:9-16 (p. 21)

2. Prayers for the Jena 6, their friends and families, and other persons who stand in solidarity with those who suffer injustice:

O Lord, teach us who love Liberty and long for it, to realize its cost and purpose. There can be no freedom in a just and good world, if freedom means to do as we please, when we please, and where all about us in this life, as in this school, lie bars and bonds and limits. The free are those who know the rules which God himself has set and go their way within these metes and bounds full freely. Truth is the knowledge of these strait and narrow ways. It is the Truth that makes us free and this it is we linger here to lean, O Lord. Amen. John 8: 31-36 (p. 52)

Once they tell us, Jehovah, that in the great shadows of the past Thou has whispered to a quivering people, saying, “Be not afraid.” He watching over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps. Grant us today, O God, that fearlessness that rests on confidence in the ultimate rightness of things. Let us be afraid neither of mere physical hurt, nor of the unfashionableness of our color, nor of the unpopularity of our cause; let us turn toward the battle of life undismayed and above all when we have fought the good fight grant us to face the shadow of death with the same courage that has let us live. Amen. Psalm 121 (p. 57)

It is my hope that these prayers offer solace, meaning, and encouragement for those who happen to read or recite them—as it is my prayer that these petitions will help achieve justice.

Lord, hear our prayers.

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