Juneteenth and the Synergy of the Ages
In this Give Him 15, I want to commemorate Juneteenth, a new federal holiday, which is celebrated tomorrow, June 19th. Slavery officially ended in the United States with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. However, slaves in Texas didn’t learn they were free until June 19th 1865 - more than 2 1/2 years later. This day became known as Juneteenth. It was initially only celebrated in Texas, but is now being recognized around the country. You can learn more about Juneteenth here.
I asked my friend, Will Ford, to share regarding this important day in American history:
“The ending of slavery and the celebration of Juneteenth are rooted in the power of intercession. Prayer changed our nation and led to revival and transformation.
“Slaves were often forbidden to pray, and if caught doing so were sometimes beaten. Nevertheless, many slaves, in spite of the danger and because of their love for Jesus, prayed anyway. My slave ancestors used a cast iron kettle pot as an acoustic means of concealing the sound of their voices. As I detail in my book, THE DREAM KING, they would invert the pot, lay it on the ground and prop it up with 3 or 4 rocks around the edges. They then prostrated themselves on the ground and put their mouths to the opening between the ground and the kettle. Thus, it was used to muffle their voices as they prayed. This pot also became a reminder of the prayer bowls in heaven, where God collects our prayers (Revelation 5:8).
“Years ago, I began to wonder if there were similar stories passed down in other African American families, so my curiosity led me to do research. Over the past 20 years, I’ve combed through thousands of slave narratives at the Library of Congress. I learned this testimony of secret prayer meetings wasn’t just in my family’s slave history, and neither was their method of concealing their prayers. I found hundreds of written examples from Christian, African American slaves who used wash pots, barrels, and kettles to muffle their voices as they prayed.
“Albert J. Raboteau, professor of religion at Princeton University, confirms this. ‘The most common device for preserving secrecy was an iron pot usually placed in the middle of the cabin floor or at the doorstep, then slightly propped up to hold the sound of the praying and singing from escaping. A variation was to pray or sing softly with heads together around the kettle to deaden the sound.’
“Many accounts mentioned how a secret code song was used to alert them of the secret prayer meetings at night. The song was called Steal Away To Jesus. Sometimes they sang and prayed all night.
“In his slave narrative, Peter Randolph revealed how slaves also concealed prayer meetings by building temporary tabernacles, called ‘brush harbors’ or ‘hush harbors.’ In the dark of night, those first to the selected spot bent the boughs of trees in the direction of the prayer meeting, and those following behind were guided by them to the prayer meeting. After arriving in the desired location, they often soaked quilts with water, which were used to build four walls around them. This created a tabernacle. The wet blankets helped to deaden the sound as they prayed.
“The beauty is that prayers offered in secret, in wet-blanket tabernacles and muffled under cast-iron kettles, filled golden prayer bowls in heaven. It’s exciting to think that our prayers are stored in the same place. Note that in Revelation 5:8, ‘bowls’ is plural. We don’t know how many bowls hold our prayers, but it’s very likely that each of us has his or her bowl in Heaven. God stores our prayers in them for use at the proper time. At the right time, He tips them and pours out powerful answers.”
This part of American history is not taught in schools. Though recorded in our archives, these stories are only now being retold because of the research Will is doing. He is helping us understand our history is a spiritual one, not just one composed of secular events and decisions. It is a history grown also from the prayers of the saints.
Psalm 78:2-4 and other scriptures encourage us to search out and share the history we have in the Lord: “I will teach you hidden lessons from our past - stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders,” (NLT). Without the fullness of our Christian heritage being known, godless men and women will try to reconstruct a history leaving God out of the picture. This revisionist history leaves us soul-less and divided, hopeless, and without a moral compass or purpose.
“Imagine, one day, in response to the prayers of our enslaved forefathers, God tipped over the prayer bowls in heaven and changed society. Quiet but fervent prayers for freedom, offered underneath kettles, joined with the prayers and sermons of the first and second Great Awakenings bringing deliverance. One of the little-known revivalists who became a voice for the voiceless was John Girardeau in Charleston, South Carolina. A white pastor and a rising star in the Presbyterian church, Girardeau also had a heart for the lost, especially enslaved African Americans. In the summer of 1857, at the Anson Street Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Girardeau called his congregation of 48 slaves and 12 whites to pray for revival. They prayed for many months.1
“One evening, while in prayer with the congregation, Girardeau said he ‘felt as if a surge of electricity’ struck his head and filled his entire being. He looked up and saw those praying with him shaking, trembling, and in tears. Their cries became more fervent as they continued praying with tears for the souls of their lost neighbors and loved ones. Revival came to the entire city of Charleston! One church gained 400 new members in just 3 or 4 days! 2
“This move of Holy Spirit lasted for eight weeks of nightly meetings and impacted all of Charleston. Crowds of 1,500 to 2,000 of every background gathered from across the city. Free African Americans, the enslaved, and whites of every strata of society were impacted. Girardeau’s church grew from 60 people to 2,000 Sunday morning attendees. 3
The Presbyterian church decided to ride the wave of enthusiasm, and initiated evangelism and prayer campaigns up and down the east coast. Eventually, they started one in New York City on Fulton Street at a Dutch Reformed church building, asking a young businessman who had been impacted by the revival in Charleston to head up the effort. Jeremiah Lanphier began a noon-day prayer meeting for businessmen. His first prayer meeting of six people soon turned into hundreds. Within weeks, 5,000 were coming to prayer! Eventually, over a million people across the country would give their lives to Christ and participate in these noon, business prayer meetings. 4
“This revival of prayer not only resulted in a harvest of millions of souls, but also societal transformation. Because of the new ethnic diversity in the congregations in Charleston, many people became voices for their brothers and sisters who were still enslaved there and throughout the South. This change of heart over slavery was an answer to prayer for those bound in chains. Incredibly, historians record the first shot of the Civil War came from Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. I believe, with many others, that the first shot of the Civil War actually came from the prayer meeting on Anson Street. Ultimately, on June 19, 1865, two years after slaves were freed through the Emancipation Proclamation, freedom for all enslaved came to the streets of Galveston, Texas.
“The questions for us now are, ‘Which prayer meeting will be the “first shot” to end our division today? Who will fill the prayer bowls in heaven for those “spiritually” enslaved? Who will “steal away to Jesus” today, in order to shift and shape tomorrow?’”
Pray with me [prayer by Will Ford]:
Father, the prayers of our forefathers ring in eternity, actively working even today to shape our nation’s future. You have not forgotten the prayers of Robert Hunt, who planted a cross at Jamestown and dedicated this land to You. You are still acting on the prayers of our governmental forefathers and great revivalists in history. Your heart holds dear, as well, the sacrificial prayers of our country’s former enslaved believers.
Today, we’re gathering stones and building another altar to You for our future. Release a new fire of revival for this generation and beyond. Heal hearts, minds, emotions and relationships. Make the church in America of one heart, mind, spirit and purpose in Christ Jesus. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on us and through us.
Manifest Your holy presence across this land as You did in revivals of old. Birther of nations, You are able to rebirth this land. You can draw the lost, and You can also end systemic poverty and reverse Roe v. Wade. You can end human trafficking, senseless violence, and gang warfare. You can unravel global agendas and give Your people solutions to societal ills.
You are looking for a new generation of people who will drop their agendas, come together and believe! We want to be part of extending a storyline in America that brings healing instead of hurt, blessing instead of curses. Make it so! Amen.
The sacrifice of prayer by former enslaved citizens is still honored in Heaven. We decree that the prayers we pray today will mingle with theirs, lighting the fires of revival and transforming America’s future!
Learn more about Will Ford here.
Click below to watch prayer.