Some Minneapolis residents knelt and raised their arms. Others stood, pleading out loud for change.
While their brothers and sisters only blocks down the street geared up for a fourth night of protests, this passionate crowd focused elsewhere. This group of believers sincerely sought God’s glory, praying for healing in a city that’s endured a violent week.
On Monday, George Floyd died after being held down by a Minneapolis Police officer. In the days that followed, civil demonstrations shifted into violent protests. Buildings, including the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, were torched; other places suffered catastrophic damage. The Minnesota National Guard was called in. Local authorities attempted a curfew, but protesters initially defied that order. Civil unrest unfolded there and also in other major U.S. cities.
“The only One who can heal the racial divide is Jesus Christ who has the power to transform the human heart.”
Graham urged Christians to pray “for calm, for peace, and for an end to the violence.”
Hours ahead of the 8 p.m. local curfew in Minneapolis, that’s exactly what local followers of Jesus Christ were doing. Pastor Herman Colón and his wife Yolandita led a prayer and worship service in the parking lot of their church only blocks away from boarded-up and graffitied businesses. Pastors of various denominations took turns praying—some in person and some by phone over a loud speaker. Dozens worshipped, crying out to God.
Every now and then, a burning smell wafted over the crowd. The fourth day of protests were starting nearby.
“[God] You put us up—a watchman on a wall, and we have failed,” a Canadian pastor prayed by phone, his voice carried over the loud speaker.
“Father, forgive us because now we see a city that is running around without direction.”
A young woman wept as the pastor prayed. She wiped her eyes, careful not to touch her facemask, a precaution the CDC advises as the United States continues to battle the coronavirus. She remembers running without direction. And had she not had an encounter with Jesus a short time back, she probably would be involved in the protests. She said her heart breaks for her lost brothers and sisters.
“It’s just crazy that this street that we’re on right now, I used to do drug trades myself,” said the woman, a former gang member who asked to be identified only by the initials PG. “I just came here because I felt a calling, like God was calling me to pray.
“People are lost. … The devil is laughing because it’s not a man-war. It’s a spiritual war.”
Colón likened the current situation to the storm the disciples encountered on the sea of Galilee. In Mark 4:38-40, the Bible tells about a massive squall that panics the disciples, some of whom are professional fishermen.
“In the midst of the storm, everybody is fearful—and what a storm Minneapolis is in,” Colón said before adding that Jesus urges His followers to decide—are you going to choose faith? The church needs to step up, Colón stressed.
“We’re not keeping watch,” he said. “And right here what happened … we cannot possibly allow this to happen under our watch.
“We’re not just pastoring a church, we’re pastoring a city. When we have that mentality of pastoring a city, everything changes for us.”
“We declare what the Word of God says, that we should declare into the city of Minneapolis and especially in this storm that we’re in,” Colón’s wife Yolandita added. “We declare life and peace and forgiveness. I see revival. I know revival is coming.”
It might be hard to see right now, especially in the wake of a nationwide pandemic. Billy Graham chaplain Kevin Williams noted this week’s events have been exacerbated by the pre-existing stresses from COVID-19: financial issues, job losses and anxiety, to name a few.
“Through this response, we’re praying as we provide emotional and spiritual care, that those who know the Lord Jesus Christ would be encouraged and those who don’t know Him would come out of the darkness and into the marvelous light,” Williams said.
Evangelist Sammy Wanyonyi couldn’t agree more. He sees hope, and as Friday’s prayer gathering came to a close, he paused to share his thoughts.
“We are saying we know God is in the process of creating something that is going to have impact and transformation for our city, for our state and for this nation, and we want to be right in the middle of it,” Wanyonyi said. “In the midst of all this chaos, I believe the grace of God is pushing back the darkness.
“The enemy is scared so he creates the chaos, but God’s power as manifest in the resurrection of Christ is going to prevail—so we will keep pressing in by faith.”