“It’s me, it’s me oh Lord… standing in the need of prayer. It’s me, it’s me oh Lord… standing in the need of prayer….. not my brother…. nor my sister… but it’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”
Prayer is quite interesting. Most of us are taught to pray at an early age. It is a ritualistic ending to our nights. In good faith, our guardians taught us to be thankful as we pray. We were instructed to pray for the homeless, the needy, the kids in Africa who didn’t even have those vegetables that we called “nasty” to eat. Our prayer life starts off honest. We haven’t committed sins that weigh over our heads. Many of us who pray as children don’t have much to want for.
Gradually, our prayers pivot. As teens, we get into mischief. Our prayers aren’t as frequent and when we come before an almighty God, it’s for the sake of avoiding an arrest or someone telling our mother what we did down the street. Maybe a girl is pregnant or possibly pregnant at the expense of some irresponsible, sex-hungry boy. There could be a sexually-transmitted disease that needs to be cured. Maybe a bad grade in school. Or maybe one of those “Oh Lord, if you get me through this, I’ll never drink again” prayers.
Sometimes, we become such heathens that we just stop praying altogether. See, prayers aren’t one-way communication outlets. For those who “believe”, we “believe” that God speaks back. We believe that God has instructions that come to us in our spirits. The things that we know we should do, the God that we believe in whispers to us those things as a confirmation of what we already know. So we avoid prayer as a means of avoiding the inevitable truth. In these moments, our prayers are no longer about the poor among us or the sick. It is me, it is me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my mother, father, sister, or brother…Lord it’s me.
The lyrics to that song serve as a reminder of what we we’re told to pray for and how we’ve pivoted from praying for others to praying for ourselves. It’s become akin to the long spoon parable. The parable is a room filled with hungry people, one pot of food, and long spoons. The people starve because they try to feed themselves and can’t reach their own mouths because the spoons are too long for their hands to reach back around. They somehow missed the fact that the spoons were meant for them to feed one another.
Many of us have prayed for ourselves. God has shown us the pot of food and the spoons. That’s his answer for our hunger. Yet, we still come before God with a prayer for ourselves and not our sister or brother.
Recently, Ray Lewis stood in the need of prayer. He took to the ground before God during the national anthem. As he sang the anthem and dropped to two knees. Many believed he was not joining the fight against injustice through public protest and he confirmed such as he spoke about his separate public demonstration in the days following.
Ray was praying. But for what? It couldn’t be for his brothers and sisters. That I know for sure. His prayer could’ve been for him to feel better about his service to White privilege as a detractor to the protests. His response that he gives back to the police and military is not sufficient. The police and military don’t need Ray’s money or time. The easiest way to get funding into a budget as a political legislator is to ask for more money for police and military. There is no shortage of attention or money given to law enforcement and military. When police forces are short on riot gear, the receive it from the military and it is used to frighten the common people from exercising their right to protest in a non-violent manner. There is no shortage of resources for these two groups. That is not hate speech toward those groups. It’s just facts. And Ray’s preoccupation with stating his work with them has caused him to stand in need of prayer… for himself.
Employment for Blacks won’t stop racial injustice. Volunteering at community centers won’t stop racial injustice. Neither will donating to police and military causes. They can help… in a roundabout way. But that’s not enough from someone like Ray Lewis. Let the community workers do the aforementioned things. Because of Ray’s position in society, he is better suited being one of the few who can be bold in hostile company speaking about oppression. Ray didn’t work as hard as he did on the field to become the guy who takes the easy way out in an effort not to ruffle feathers. Lately, his public debates make him look as if he has come out of retirement as a 40 year-old linebacker playing too deep into pass coverage looking out of place, slow, and bewildered. He appears this way because he is out of place when he displays double-talk and begins to deflect from the issues at hand to more convenient topics for him such as “Black on Black crime” and the “both sides need to do better” nonsense.
Ray is staying on his knees because like many of us, when we don’t hear the answer from God that we like, we continue praying. Because society has perverted the act of prayer and coached us into believing that praying without action is permissible. The Bible states that faith without works is dead. But are you in the right vineyard doing the right work? That’s the question that Ray needs to ask God.
Ray, God has already spoken. Like the oppressed groups in the Bible before us, God instructed them to work against the oppressor. Now it’s your time to work against oppression and remove your convenient talk from this conversation.
Tackle oppression, Ray.
Don’t let it stiff arm you.