Today’s prayer is from the same book as Monday’s prayer. The prayer is entitled, A Thanksgiving Prayer for the Abolition of the African Slave Trade (1808) by Absalom Jones.
Absalom Jones wrote this prayer in response to The Slave Trade Act 1807, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom prohibiting the slave trade in the British Empire. It did not abolish the practice of slavery but encouraged British action to pressure other nation states to abolish their own slave trades. The U.S. Congress agreed that traders would be fined under the Act, but ultimately did nothing to ensure its enforcement:
“It was an empty and mostly symbolic law. The act failed to close the door on the ongoing international slave trade while flinging open thee door to a domestic one. Violations of human rights continued when children were snatched from parents, and slave ships now travelled down American waters in a kind of ‘middle passage’ from Virginia to New Orleans, which took as many das as the transatlantic ‘middle passage’ had.”Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning (New York: Nation Books, 2016), 136.
Of course Jones would not know the outcome when he wrote this prayer, but his cry of thanksgiving and passionate petitions should still be heard.
Oh thou God of all nations upon the earth! we thank thee, that thou art no respecter of persons, and thou hast made of one blood all nations of men (Acts 17:26, KJV). We thank thee, that thou hast appeared, in the fullness of time, in behalf of the nation from which most of the worshipping people, now before thee, are descended. We thank thee, that the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) has at last shed morning beams upon them. Rend thy heavens, O Lord, and come down upon the earth; and grant that the mountains, which now obstruct the perfect day of thy goodness and mercy toward them, may flow down at thy presence (Isaiah 64:1). Send thy gospel, we beseech thee, among them. May the nations, which now sit in darkness, behold and rejoice in its light. May Ethiopia soon stretch out her hands unto thee, and lay hold of the gracious promise of thy everlasting covenant. Destroy, we beseech thee, all the false religions which now prevail among them; and grant, that they may soon cast their idols, to the moles and the bats of the wilderness. O, hasten that glorious time, when the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea, when, “the world shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them”; and when, “instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree, and, instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:13). We pray, O God, for all our friends and benefactors in Great Britain, as well as the United States: reward them, we beseech thee, with blessings upon earth, prepare them to enjoy the fruits of their kindness to us, in thy everlasting kingdom in heaven; and dispose us, who are assembled in thy presence, to be always for thy mercies, and to act as a people who owe so much to thy goodness. We implore thy blessing, O God, upon the President, and all who are in authority in the United States. Direct them by thy wisdom, in all their deliberations, and O save thy people from the calamities of war. Give people in our day, we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! and grant, that this highly favored country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come. We implore all these blessings and mercies, only in the name of thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. And now, O Lord, we desire with angels and arch-angels, and the company of heaven, ever more to praise thee, saying, “Holy holy holy Lord God almighty: the whole earth is full of thy glory.” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans by James Melvin Washington, 12-13.