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Praying for the peace of Ferguson

The Grand Jury has made their decision about Darren Wilson, the officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown. He will not be indicted. As I type this, however, emotions are flaring and some folks present in Ferguson (I’m betting not representative of the residents) have started looting and causing other dangerous disturbances.

In contrast to the violence, other more peaceful protesters are on the scene attempting to prevent the chaos. We need God to intervene.

In light of this, I want to take you back to the second week after Brown was killed. Tensions were high then, too. At the time, I sensed the leading of God to take a few excursions into the community to find random strangers who would be willing to pray with me for the peace of Ferguson. The following is the result.

[Originally posted on August 25, 2014.]

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV

I knew about the Watts riots of 1965. I had heard about the riots breaking out in 1967 in places like Newark, Detroit, and Milwaukee. I watched the horror of the violence of 1992 in Los Angeles following the Rodney King assault trial. But I never imagined that my neighboring town of Ferguson would rank right up there among the others—an infamous distinction, indeed.

What do you do when civil unrest and bedlam breaks out in your own backyard? You pray, first of all; and you pray with others, too.

As I sat glued to my TV during the first week of agitation, I prayed. All of my other prayer concerns fell aside as I set my face like flint to defy the darkness descending upon my neighbors. This warfare was not with flesh and blood, but against the enemy of all men’s souls, and I knew that my Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had outfitted me with His authority and equipped me to stand in His name. I also knew that I was far from alone in my stand. Multitudes from my region, throughout America, and around the world were taking their stand as well, interceding for the city where I had lunch with my sister just four days before.

Violence continued into the second week. As I took a walk Monday morning after another night of chaos, I felt led of the Lord to walk into a primarily minority apartment complex just off of my normal route. I saw a young woman sitting on her porch as she watched roofers repair old storm damage.

Ask her if she needs prayer, I heard the Lord whisper. I hesitated; but then I picked my way through the roofing supplies to her porch. She didn’t need prayer.

Hmmm… I thought. And then it hit me—was she was concerned about Ferguson? When she responded that she sure was, I asked if I could pray with her about it and she agreed. She gripped my hand firmly as we asked God for the peace and safety of the people in our neighboring town. When I said Amen, she—a twenty-something, tattooed black lady—opened up to me—a nearly sixty year-old conservative white woman.

“These people are just lootin’ and makin’ a mess and don’t care about no one! I’m sick of all of this—it’s the only thing on TV these days! It’s gotta come to an end!”

And thus week two began, and the Lord revealed a new job for me to do—I would start finding strangers with whom to pray for the peace of Ferguson.

I started in my own town.

  • Robert and John, two young black men, prayed with me on the Starbucks patio. We formed a small circle and bowed our heads as the two of them held my hands. I peeked and saw that one had put his arm around his buddy’s neck. The intensity of their reverence was striking.
  • Darlene, a nearly blind woman, prayed with me—also at Starbucks—while waiting for her bus.  After we finished, she told me, “I dreamed last night that I was leaving church to catch my bus when a stranger stopped me to pray with them.”
  • Alicia, an older black lady at the Ferguson Wal-Mart, told me after we prayed, “Two families are torn apart—Michael Brown’s and that young officer’s family. I’ve been praying for both of them.”
  • Sharon, a woman from St. Louis city, stood with a group of protesters when I showed up across from the fire station in Ferguson. It didn’t take long before we recognized one another as fellow intercessors, and we entered into prayer for our region in the name of Jesus. She told me that none of her friends had wanted to join her, but God told her to go to Ferguson, anyway—He would provide a prayer partner for her. You guessed it—that prayer partner was me.
  • At that same location, an ice cream truck pulled up. The driver and his friend (both black) jumped out and shouted, “Free ice cream for everyone!” Smiling ear-to-ear, they handed out the treats to everyone—black and white alike—and then crossed the street to an older white man with a walker, saying, “Sir—this is for you, free of charge!” before racing over to hand a free bar to the lone journalist manning the CNN command site. I felt tears stinging in my eyes. [Note from November 24, 2014: This type of display was far more common in August than the media showed. When more and more out of town “organizers” showed up, however, this sort of behavior became more and more scarce.]
  • At the command center on West Florissant (past the burnt-out Quik Trip), Brian, a dreadlocked young man in his Target uniform, gripped my hand as we prayed. When we finished, he said, “Ma’am, I want to grow old and have kids. I don’t want to ruin my life messing around doing crazy stuff.” I agreed with him, and laying my hand on his shoulder, decreed that God would fulfill all His purposes in Brian’s life and use him as a peacemaker.
  • Clarissa, a young black woman, was sitting in a motorized shopping cart when we prayed. After the Amen, she confided that she had been terrified and needed someone to pray with. I zeroed back in on her in prayer and loosed the protection and peace of God to surround her for the duration of the unrest and for the rest of her life.
  • Floretta, another young woman—who, like Clarissa had been dealing with overwhelming fear—welcomed my prayers for her protection, wisdom, and direction. This granddaughter of a pastor was smiling ear-to-ear as we parted ways.
  • Darryl was the only non-black person with whom I had prayed up to that point. This tattoed, young Asian man was on a smoking break in front of the hair shop he owned. I told him I was praying for the peace of Ferguson’s people and businesses and then asked him if he believed in God. “No—I’m an atheist,” he replied. I asked if I could pray for him and his store anyway. He agreed, and there we stood, heads bowed, as he puffed on his cigarette and I prayed for God to reveal Himself to Darryl. I prayed just as vigorously for the protection, wisdom, and guidance of this young atheist as I did for all the rest. As I finished, he thanked me.

What do you do when civil unrest and bedlam breaks out in your own backyard? You stand in the gap; and you pray for the ones caught on the front lines of the warfare. And you refuse to let up until your backyard becomes a praise in the earth.

Stand strong,