August 19, 2006 Prayer at the Emancipation Oak
Today, I find myself being more of a chronicler of the events that are unfolding instead of being a direct participant. Although, the Lord did make direct use of me this day in areas of prayer in which I was directly involved. There are so many participants in this day at this time ― each with their own insights and discernment of what is happening in them ― that all I can do is give my limited impressions of the important spiritual insights He is giving me. Each person who witnessed this day will need to chronicle this day for themselves. Even these things I write are, at best, only the tip of the iceberg of all that was going on among us and around us and do not come close to all that was happening among us.
We went over to the Emancipation Tree with anticipation, but not knowing what the Lord had in store for us, or all that He expected from us. All in all, there were seven in the core group (with about ten or more others who witnessed the day and came in and out as their time permitted). We were from different churches representing both black and white Americans, and we gathered around the trunk and under the wide spreading limbs of this ancient tree to pray. We quickly recognized the powerful presence of the Lord and found ourselves on our knees in prayer, and the Lord showed up in a powerful way among us. It was not a time of planned worship with expected things to do, but was a time to come into the Lord’s presence seeking from Him what He wants from us.
Pastor Bolling Bryant led off with his heart wrenching confession of the generational curse his ancestors helped bring upon this nation by helping to establish ― at the very beginning of Jamestown in 1612 ― the success of the tobacco industry that became the mainstay of Virginia’s economy even until this day. This action thereby established early on the economic need for a cheap and ready supply of labor that all too soon evolved into the institution of slavery in this nation. By extension, this led to the subtle but underlying (and often unspoken) racism that permeates all of American society ― both North and South.
Bishop Calvin Sykes came forward and confessed the sins of his people in relying upon others (especially governmental institutions) to care for them and not a willingness to step up to take responsibility for their actions and become the leaders of their own families and people. He felt the pain of his people for lost fathers and lost sons who have no father figures to lead them into manhood ― actions that have led to broken families, children who do not know their fathers, dependence upon gangs and drugs that all too many of the youth see as their way out of the cycle of poverty and depression in which they find themselves. Unfortunately these are the things that led to the high murder and death rates among many in the black communities who are still enslaved by poverty, fear, hopelessness and unforgiveness.
Pastor Duke McCaskill next came forward to confess the sin of mammon ― our reliance upon success and “prosperity” in this nation as our gods. He related how we in the nation and in the churches have turned to these false gods and are not preaching the gospel message but worldly and monetary success instead. We have failed the Lord and have perverted His life-giving message to all of us to repent and turn to Him as our savior. We have taken for granted the Lord’s blessings upon us and now assume His blessings as success in this world due to us alone as our right and entitlement and have become focused upon worldly things and pleasures and not the call of God upon our lives and in the church. We are using the Lord’s church as our personal avenue to worldly success and are neglecting the lost flocks who are starving for life.
The last of the major prayer points that needed to be confessed and repented, and one of the most important, was led by Jeanne Brown, who has carried a heavy burden for some time for the unborn in this nation, and the plague of abortion that has cursed this nation for decades. She confessed the sin of abortion rampant in this nation and has been for generations and the spineless willfulness of our political and judicial authorities in this nation to rationalize the need for it ― our self-centered and selfishness to be willing to murder the life within us for personal pleasure no matter what the euphemism we use to call it. She repented of how we as a people now rationalize (justify) these murders hiding behind fancy words, lofty sounding ideals, and hair splitting arguments without any mercy or compassion for the spirit of the law, but only concerned with the hard and cold “letter of the law.” But all this is now leading to the justification of legalized euthanasia or as politely put “mercy killing,” of people who are too ill to care for themselves and can no longer speak for themselves. She found herself doubled over in pain and revulsion for this sin, but was able to express the deep pain and anguish the Lord has for His children ― both young and old ― and the wages of our sin against Him.It was at this moment that I realized the Lord was convicting me of some hidden sins within me that were altogether part of each of the sins previously confessed, and I needed to confess them ― not just for myself, but also for the nation. As each person spoke the words the Lord had for them to say for us and the nation, I realized how much I had sinned against the Lord by my sins of pride and arrogance. These are sins that are grounded in all the others mentioned but are more subtle in that they do not necessarily fall in with the visible racism and prosperity. These are sins found in even the poorest of men regardless of race, ethnic background, or region. They transcend education, economy, culture, and geography. They are the very foundation sins we are confessing here.
I recognized that my Southern family background ― coming from poor tobacco and cotton farm families of South and North Carolina ― have left a rebellious spirit within me based upon pride. It is the pride of poverty, and has been used to keep other peoples ― especially blacks ― in their place not just in the South but all over the nation. Being on the bottom of the economic ladder, the only way we could feel good about ourselves (if not better than our fellow men) was to gloat in our poverty (or strong principled ways of living) that we thought would give us an edge over others around us. Before the abolition of slavery, we definitely were “better” than the slaves our social betters owned ― the law said so. But, the slave owners still looked down upon us as not much better than their slaves. Following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, there was no legal edge we could claim over our black brothers other than our Southern pride and being white. I saw it all around me growing up, but I could not see it for what it was.
My way of falling into this trap was to elevate myself by my education and academic background over other men as a way of separating myself from my family background. Unfortunately, what I was really doing was making myself feel (even though I personally felt myself to be a failure and no better than trash) superior to any man whose academic background was lesser than mine, and I judged people by their education and their brains and not upon their merit and God-given abilities. My sin was to judge men based not just upon skin color but academic and intellectual background. I chose to live in the ivory tower of academia and not in the real world, for I was better than the masses, the “great unwashed”― even though I had less than they did in ability to be successful in the world.
In an instant, the Lord hit me over the head with my sins, and for the first time, I felt unclean and unworthy and realized the sinfulness of my Southern roots, and I felt unworthy to be called one of His sons. I knew that I must confess and repent of these sins, for they subtly permeate all portions and levels of our society and culture in this nation. If we persist in elevating our intellects above spiritual feelings, discernment, and humility ― a god in our own image and making ― then we will be easily misled by our own vanity, and become further and further separated from the truth of the Lord’s words for us. We wind up worshiping ourselves. May God forgive me for my sins, and have mercy on us for worshiping false gods instead of Him.
By the end of the main prayers, confessions, and repentance for the sins of the nation and much wrangling and gnashing of teeth on our parts, I recognized that there was a breaking of chains of bondage in heaven from the sins that bind this nation and keep us separated from God. For the first time I realized that we are witnessing a major move of God among us by our obedience to Him and His call upon this small remnant of believers willing to step out of our comfort zones to come into the presence of the Lord and bear our souls for the sins of this nation. This is not a revival of visible feelings and signs and wonders that many churches and people expect. But it is a deeper revival that is the turning point for this nation to renew the broken covenant with God we first made with Him in 1607. We have begun the Great Revival whether men and churches realize it, and there is no turning back. The victory is the Lord’s and not ours to claim.