Editor’s Note: The following is a prayer of lament Mary Demuth prayed 3 years ago at the SBC annual meeting. It is reposted here with her permission
Our majestic, sovereign, empathetic, beautiful Father in heaven, we repent of how we have failed to love those who struggle in our midst, and we recognize your holy rumblings in this midst of the sexual abuse crisis.
We have not always wept with those who weep. We have not always crossed the street with the Good Samaritan, inconveniencing ourselves for those who bleed.
We have sometimes preferred our institutions and systems to the cries of the wounded in our midst.
We have failed to acknowledge the very real grief and trauma of survivors, abandoning them to feel alone, bereft, and untouchable. Sometimes we have blamed them for their neediness, or we’ve simply dismissed their stories, preferring our own narratives because it is more convenient to do so.
We have not rightly understood the nature of wolves in our midst, and there have been times when we jumped to believe their howls of innocence over the cries of those they’ve devoured.
Through our ignorance, we have further marginalized image-bearers of God who have difficult stories of abuse (sometimes at the hands of members and leaders of our congregations) by shaming, silencing, and blaming them.
We have looked the other way.
We have not acted justly, loved mercy, or walked humbly with You, O Lord.
Forgive us for preferring corporate reputation to the outcries of survivors.
Forgive us for grossly underestimating the tools of Satan’s greatest arsenal—that of sexual exploitation, trafficking, assault, harassment and pornography’s insidious grip on many in our midst.
Forgive us for not valuing our children enough to protect them.
Forgive us for neglecting to report sexual assault in our congregations to the governing authorities.
Forgive us for failing to see the worldwide Body of Christ as valuable enough to protect it from the predators we have sent their way, so it’s no longer our problem, but theirs.
We turn away from these sins of commission and omission, asking for your forgiveness and restoration. Transform our congregations into havens. As the church, we long to be a city on the hill, a beacon of light to the broken. We understand that the level to which we redemptively and empathetically respond to this crisis corresponds directly to our effectiveness in representing Jesus Christ on this earth.
Lord, give us a prophetic imagination to see the wounded as tutors in the winsome ways of your kingdom.
Instead of indifference, we choose tangible compassion. Instead of deafness, we choose to dignify people by listening to and highlighting their stories. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, we choose Holy Spirit-inspired wisdom and patience. Give us tenacious grit to love this way.
Restore unto us the joy of our very real salvation. Reorient our hearts to the Gospel of the upside-down kingdom, where the last are first, the small are great, and the broken are restored.
We long to see revival, and we know that a move of God follows godly sorrow and repentance. Have mercy upon us as we lament and repent, dear Lord.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.