Martin Luther King Day: Healing Prayer and the Lies We Believe | Sojourners

Martin Luther King Day: Healing Prayer and the Lies We Believe

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Lisa Sharon Harper for Sojourners.

Have you ever heard of healing prayer?

Richard Foster writes about it in his seminal book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. Healing prayer is different than prayers of supplication or intercession — the kind of prayer where we get to ask God for stuff. It’s different from contemplative prayer — the kind where we get to sit and soak in the presence of God.

Healing prayer goes deep into the soul of the prayer with one purpose — to heal hearts and souls broken by life. In healing prayer, the one on their knees invites Jesus to go deep — to reveal core lies she or he has believed about themselves, God, the world, their relationships; to identify the point when that lie took root in the soul; and then to renounce the lie and invite in the truth.

I was in the middle of my second year as a volunteer staff member with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in 1996, when I had my first experience of healing prayer. It was a hard year for various reasons, so a good friend offered to pray for me. She starting by asking Jesus to come a join our circle of prayer — to sit with us and talk with us in the spiritual realm.

Then she got down to it: “Reveal the lies, Jesus,” she prayed.

We met weekly for spiritual surgery. One by one over the course of a year, Jesus revealed lie after lie that I had believed about myself, God, and my relationships. And the good doctor (Mark 2:17) took out the scalpel and cut that cancer from my soul and replaced lies with truth. The affect was dramatic.

Today (Jan. 16), we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a man who called America to face the lies embedded in its soul.

He called us to face the lie that any amount of poverty is acceptable.

“I have the audacity to believe that people’s everywhere can have three meals per day, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” (Norway, 1964)

He called us to face the lie that might makes right.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

He called us to face the lie that peace does not require justice.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

And there was another lie Dr. King called out — without ever saying the words — his actions called it out! That insidious lie was unmasked on the buses of Montgomery, Ala., stamped out on Edmond Petus Bridge in Selma. It was revealed as the terrified faces of children faced down fire hoses in the hands of men who swore an oath to protect the common good.

The lie I speak of is the lie that lives in the souls of the mighty. It goes like this: Separation from them makes us safer and stronger.

On my recent trip to Alabama, I met the Rev. Bill Love, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dadeville. He told me a story that I want to share with you today.

At the start of the Civil Rights Movement that we celebrate today, he was a little white boy riding the buses in Montgomery. He told me the story of how he, as a 6 year old, was fascinated by the back of the bus. He wanted to sit there — badly. It seemed to be a special place where only special people got to sit. So, one day young Bill crossed the line and sat his white bottom down in the Black-only section.

Watch the video below to hear Bill tell the story himself. He tells it better than I ever could.


The lesson Love gleaned was mighty: When we build walls of separation, we find that we are ultimately the ones boxed in.

So, on this day — on Dr. King’s day — let us engage a bit of healing prayer:

Dearest Jesus, come and sit with us today. Show us the lies that are still embedded in the soul of America’s consciousness. Unmask the untruths we have made our best friends. For they seek our destruction. And we are being destroyed, Lord. Reveal the ways the lies have distorted and destroyed our relationships. They break your shalom … daily.

Jesus, give us courage to embrace the truth about ourselves and you and our world. Truth: We are all made in your image. Truth: You are God; we are not. You are God; money is not. You are God; jails, bombs and bullets are not.

And Jesus, give us faith to believe: Redemption of people, relationships, communities and whole nations is possible! Give us faith enough to renounce the lies and tear down the walls that separate us with our hands, with our feet, and with our votes!


Lisa Sharon Harper is the Director of Mobilizing at Sojourners. She is also co-author of Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican ... or Democrat.

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