The Prayer of Helplessness

Two years ago today I had the privilege of visiting the Martin Luther King visitor centre in Atlanta and the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was Pastor. Among the many profound and moving things I got to see, this inscription from one of the displays happened to be the “on this day” reminder from my photo app today.

As today also happens to be the start of Lent, it is a very timely and apt reminder that even when we are helpless we are never hopeless. Few people will ever face the isolating burdens of leadership that MLK did, but even in the loneliness of the wilderness, those who call on the name of the Lord are never alone.

My wife had already fallen asleep and I was about to doze off when the telephone rang An angry voice said, “Listen, nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you. Before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.” I hung up, but I could not sleep. It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached the saturation point.

I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. Finally, I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing to be a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had almost gone, I determined to take my problem to God. My head in my hands I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud… “I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before then without strength and courage they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left… I can’t face it alone.

At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never before experienced him. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice, saying, “Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever.” Almost at once my fears began to pass from me. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything. The outer situation remained the same. But God had given me inner calm.

Three nights later, our home was bombed.