A Prayer of Lament for Racism

By Christine Kindberg, U.S.

My heart is broken over the callousness that killed George Floyd on May 25, and even more so because it is rooted in decades and centuries of valuing the lives of white people more than the lives of black people. This injustice and oppression run deep in U.S. culture; you can trace it back to before the Constitution counted Black slaves as 3/5ths of a person. It was accepted as part of everyday life under Jim Crow laws, and it’s enforced today with an engorged prison system in which 56% of incarcerated people are African American or Hispanic. In Illinois, where I live, 56% of the prison population is Black, though they are 15% of the state population.

What are we to do now, when injustice is so deeply entrenched?
Photo by Koshu Kunii, Unsplash

For one thing, let’s hold on to the conviction that it doesn’t have to be this way. Other countries like Germany and South Africa give models for what it means to collectively face up to a horrifying legacy and move forward toward change.

But, really, we won’t be able to move forward until we come to terms with the darkness in our history.

Change means learning—and repentance. For those of us who don’t have to live this injustice every day, it may take a while to understand. Let’s make the effort. (For starters, let me recommend this article, which I found very helpful in putting the protests into context. It’s written by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, one of the best books I’ve ever read).

And, yes, repentance. Bryan Stevenson writes in Just Mercy, “We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing.” Change starts with the acknowledgement that the brokenness of our history is also in us, in the assumptions we make without realizing, in the thoughtless statements we didn’t think would cause harm. I have been part of the callousness that killed George Floyd. Too often I don’t even see the error of my ways. I need help to change.
Today a prayer of lament by Anglican Archbishop Ng Moon Hing of Malaysia let me borrow the words that I needed. I hope they’re helpful for you too.
Almighty God,
we repent that
in thought, word or deed,
we have committed serious offenses
against you and our neighbors.
In laziness, despair and lust for power,
we have provoked hatred, division and hurt
within our communities.

In greed, deceit and indifference,
we have caused serious damage,
unnecessary conflict and aggravated destruction.

In selfishness, insensitivity and bias,
we have encouraged and emboldened
those who inflict hurt, pain and sorrow.

In the name of religion, doctrine
and even of Christ himself,
we have wounded believers
and pursuers of holiness and faith.

In stubbornness, pride and arrogance,
we have caused division and strife
within your church and among your children.

Mercifully send Your Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of order and comfort,
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness;

restore in us true faith in Christ
which brings truth, peace and harmony;

and help us to walk together
with our brothers and sisters
in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to the glory of your name.


Christine Kindberg is a fiction writer and the author of  The Means That Make Us Strangers. From Peru, Chile, Panama, Kentucky, and North Carolina, she studied at Wheaton College and has an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She works as a Spanish-language editor at Tyndale House Publishers and is a board member of MAI.



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