The God of Providence - The Incredible Story of Will Ford and Matt Lockett
Everyone likes a good story - even more when it’s a true story. But “good” doesn’t do this one justice. It is remarkable; frankly, it borders on unbelievable. I, however, know the two men whose story I’m about to share. Believe me when I say it’s all true. And, we saved it for today, a special anniversary related to the story, which you will hear of shortly. Here is the story in Will Ford’s words.
“During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, just as in the days of slavery in America, a remnant of whites and blacks labored together. Dr. Martin Luther King stated in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech: ‘I have a dream ... that one day the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners, will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’
“In the days of slavery, this was demonstrated by former slave, Richard Allen, preaching the gospel as a Methodist circuit-riding companion of former slave owner, Freeborn Garrettson. Today, members of a new united remnant are realizing we of all races, are inextricably bound to each other in our desire for spiritual awakening and justice for all.
“My heart is moved in profound ways by this unifying work of Holy Spirit because of a kettle passed down in my family, and a Virginia farmhouse that unites me with my friend in ministry Matt Lockett. This house once stood between Civil War foes and took on a key role in a divided nation. Today, God is using Matt’s and my profound story and shared inheritance to unite the church for spiritual awakening and healing in America.
“Our story begins with a 200-year-old black kettle, used by my Christian, slave ancestors in Lake Providence, Louisiana. Used for cooking and washing clothes during the day, this kettle was secretly used for prayer at night. Forbidden to pray by their slave master, my ancestors were beaten unmercifully if caught doing so. However, in spite of their owner's cruelty, and because of their love for Jesus, they prayed anyway. Sneaking into a barn at night, they carried this cast-iron pot into their secret prayer meeting. As others looked out and kept watch, those inside prayed.
“Turning the pot upside down on the barn floor, they propped it up with rocks—suspending the pot a few inches above the ground. Then, while lying prostrate or kneeling on the ground, they prayed in a whisper underneath the kettle to muffle their voices. They risked their lives to pray - not for themselves, we were told - but for ensuing generations.
“One day, freedom came. A teenage girl, whose name is lost to history, decided to keep this pot and pass it down along with the story of how others prayed for our freedom. She passed the story and kettle down to Harriet Lockett, who then passed it on to Nora Lockett, who then passed it on to William Ford Sr., (the last name changing from marriage) then to William Ford Jr., who then gave it to me, William Ford III. This kettle, used to keep their prayers from being heard outside the meeting, became symbolically their ‘bowl’ of intercession.
“Revelation 5:8 speaks of ‘bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints’ before the throne of God. Zechariah 14:20b (NASB) says, ‘And the cooking pots in the Lord's house will be like the bowls before the altar.’ This kettle, or ‘prayer bowl,’ caught the muffled prayers on earth, just as bowls in heaven caught their prayers as incense.
“And in Revelation 8:5 when these bowls are released, one of the manifestations upon the earth is ‘voices.’ White Christian abolitionists/revivalists like Francis Asbury and Charles Finney became voices for the voiceless. Their public sermons became answers to prayers whispered in private. Along with black revivalists and abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, they awakened the conscience of America to the value of human life, equality, and justice. Revelation chapter 8 says that God also adds His incense and fire to these prayers, releasing His judgment and justice on earth. And that is just what He did.
“In 1857, many felt a U.S. Supreme Court decision sealed the fate of enslaved African Americans. In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court justices ruled by a 7-2 decision that slaves were the property of their masters—with no human rights or representation in court. However, because of prayer and acts of obedience, hearts were changed, and eventually, this demonic decree over America was broken. Revival was released, and justice came, setting slaves free.
“My Lockett forefathers in Lake Providence prayed for years for slavery to end; in God’s providence, the last major battle of the Civil War happened at a property called Lockett Farm, just north of Farmville, Virginia. I didn't realize this until about four years ago, when one of my best friends, Matt Lockett, director of Bound4LIFE and Justice House of Prayer DC, discovered he is a direct descendant of this Lockett family. As a direct descendant, it can be said that over 150 years ago, the Civil War ended in his family's front yard. The Lockett Farm was the site of the last battle before Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered three days later—April 9, 1865—at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
“As friends, we were amazed by the uncanny "Lockett" connections: my family of Locketts, praying for the ending of slavery, which occurred on ‘Lockett Farm,’ which it turns out was owned by my friend, Matt Lockett’s family. That’s a lot of ‘coincidence.’ But as more was revealed in the months to come, we discovered my Lockett family and his Lockett family were connected and it wasn’t coincidence at all!
“We've learned that several ancestors in Matt's family owned many slaves. Slaves typically were given the last names of their owners. After a year and a half of research, empirical evidence reveals that some of Matt's family of Locketts in Virginia had moved to Louisiana where they owned my family of Locketts. One of my best friends’ family had owned my family!
“As this profound history unfolded, we wept together. The revelation blew our minds! Not only were the prayers of my Lockett forefathers answered on a Lockett farm, they were answered in the front yard of the same Lockett family who owned them—the Lockett family of my friend, Matt Lockett. Though we had been friends for years, none of this was revealed to us until Matt's discovery of Lockett Farm four years ago.
“What is also astounding is that Matt and I first met on Jan. 17, 2005, Martin Luther King Day, at a prayer meeting at the Lincoln Memorial! This, of course, is where Dr. King said, ‘I have a dream ... that one day the sons of former slaves, and the sons of former slave owners, will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’ It seems Dr. King's ‘I Have a Dream’ speech wasn't merely poetic, but also prophetic. The son of a former slave and the son of a former slave owner meet at the place of the speech, become best friends, find out one’s family owned the other’s family, and the slave family’s prayers for freedom were answered on the slave owner’s family farm. And if you think all that is a coincidence, you are worse than a cynic! Perhaps God had my family kettle come from a town called Lake ‘Providence’ to show that all our destinies are more tied together than we realize, and the lake of His providence is way deeper and wider than we know.
“When God does something this profound, one obvious question is, ‘Why did He choose to reveal it now?’ Perhaps it is because He knew racial tension and unrest would resurface in our nation now. Ferguson, Missouri; Charlottesville, Virginia; and other hotspots are wounds God wants to heal—and will heal—through a unified godly remnant.
“Matt and I know it's no coincidence that we met first in a prayer meeting on MLK celebration day at the Lincoln Memorial, and have been sitting at the table of brotherhood ever since. Today, he and I stand united in prayer to heal a divided nation once again. God is using us to call believers of all races to join in prayer and intercession, because only a united church can heal a divided nation.
“Our generation is being called to prayer and action, to be voices, releasing revival and justice. Dr. King said in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech: ‘For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.’ Just as God raised up a unified remnant of black and white during slavery and the civil rights movement, He is doing the same today.
“In December 2017, Charlottesville clergy asked us to participate in a prayer meeting for healing the community. Not far from there stands Lockett Farm, which has a memorial stone in the front yard that reads: ‘April 6th, 1865, Here Lee Fought His Last Battle.’ That’s right - today is the anniversary. Our families' 200-year-old kettle in hand, we went back to the spot where the prayers underneath the pot were answered. We built a spiritual altar there and prayed. Though we shed tears of joy in thankfulness, we also prayed for another laying down of arms. Our earnest prayer is that America would unconditionally surrender to the God of providence and receive His healing.”
Pray with Me:
“Father, Your Son entered our history and changed eternity. Great Physician, heal America’s dislocations. Forgive us for the breaches we’ve caused in America. Align us back into place. We thank You for the enormous progress we’ve made, and we ask for continued healing in our nation from the effects of slavery. As only You can do, cleanse our failures through Your Cross and propel America forward into Your purposes. We thank You for more good yet to come in our land. We thank You that whoever the Son sets free is free indeed. We agree with the prayers of the Lockett slaves and ask for the freedom of ensuing generations. And we pray that all in America would unconditionally surrender to Your love. In Christ’s name, amen.”
“We decree God is healing the ethnic division in America. We decree forgiveness is freeing many from victim mindsets and into victorious living in Christ. We decree repentance is producing freedom from bloodguilt and releasing reconciliation. We decree he whom the Son has set free, is free indeed.”
(What Will shared here is just the tip of the iceberg, which is detailed in His and Matt’s book “The Dream King: How The Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. Is Being Fulfilled To Heal Racism In America. ”You can find out more about Will Ford and Matt Lockett here.)