Finally, this prayer does nothing to help race relations. It casts nearly all white people as the enemies of God. It casts nearly all black people as friends of God. But the Bible tells us that those who have faith in Jesus Christ—no matter their ethnicity—are friends of God. We should not think that God is on the side of the oppressed no matter what. And we should not think that God is against those who are in power no matter what.
Sarah Bessey has recently edited and published an anthology of prayers, modeled after the psalms, which express a particularly woke point of view. The prayer that has made this biggest splash this past week is Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes’ Prayer of a Weary Black Woman. Provocative, out of context snippets have been pasted across Twitter and Instagram, but the prayer deserves a more thoughtful analysis. In my limited space here I would like to offer some commendations and some criticisms of this prayer while also exploring the insights that it gives us into woke theology.
Summary of the Prayer
The snippets we’ve all seen are indeed provocative. The prayer opens with the line: “Dear God, please help me to hate white people.” It’s difficult to get more provocative than that. But we must also admit that some of the psalms and prayers that we find in Scripture are initially provocative. Dashing children upon the rocks comes to mind. Perhaps Dr. Walker-Barnes is doing something more deeply biblical than we might expect. So as responsible Christians, let’s give the whole prayer a hearing.
As the prayer unfolds, we find that the author makes some qualifications. She does not wish to hate white anti-racists. These are white people who agree that white supremacy is a thing and have devoted their lives to eradicating it in themselves and society. These are allies. She also does not wish to hate explicit white racists. These are people who commit hate crimes. These people are “already in hell”. Side note, but this is a surprising vista into woke theology. I was not aware that there was still room for God’s judgment and eternal damnation within wokeism, but there it is.
The author wishes to hate the majority of white people. White people who are not anti-racist, but neither are they explicitly racist. To use her description, these are “nice people”. People who would be glad to have her over for dinner but would also call the neighborhood watch if they saw a black person walking down the street. She wishes to hate them. She admits that she “[doesn’t] have many relationships with people like that…” (I wonder why?). But she wishes to hate them, nonetheless.
Why? These people make her weary. They do participate in racism and white supremacy but they fail to recognize it and they are not willing to change when she calls them out. She’s wearied of calling them out. She pleads with the Lord to: “Free me from this burden of calling them to confession and repentance.”
The prayer then turns to a hopeful note. She recognizes that God will not allow her to hate white people. He continues to call her to love her neighbor as herself – even if that neighbor is white. She also recognizes the many ways that God has delivered her from racism and the prayer ends with a note of confidence that God will continue to do this as she continues her quest to make white people less racist.
We must admit that this prayer is heartfelt and creative. It’s categorized as a prayer of “disorientation.” The anthology is organized according to Brueggemann’s popular categorization of all psalms as orientation, disorientation, or reorientation. As a prayer of disorientation (like a psalm of lament or imprecation) it does take a biblical form. It is biblical for God’s people to bring requests to God even though they may not be answered in the affirmative. Jesus himself prayer that God would take the cup from him if there could be any other way. He did not want to endure the horror of the cross. Yet, in the end, he submitted to God’s will. This prayer attempts to take on that biblical form and it should be commended for that.
Dr. Walker-Barnes wishes to be relieved of the burden of putting up with white people. She does not wish to bear this cross. She pleads for God to take it away from her. But when He will not, she submits to the cross of living with and loving white people. And, of course, this means taking on the prophetic role of continuing to call out the ubiquitous racism that plagues everything that white people do, say, and think. As a true martyr, she submits to this calling. Thank you, Dr. Walker-Barnes. So if I were to commend this prayer for one thing, it’s that it attempts to take on a biblical form that we do not often see in prayer.
First, this prayer puts Dr. Walker-Barnes (and anyone who prays it) in the position of the righteous sufferer without any acknowledgement of personal guilt. Dr. Walker-Barnes is weary of putting up with ignorant sinners (white people) around her and would be free of them. There is no sense of her own sinfulness, her own bias, her own racism, or her own need of forgiveness in this prayer. Jesus asked us how we could remove the speck from our brother’s eye when there is a log in our own. At least this means that we ought to be recognizing and repenting of sin in our own lives before we try to help others escape sin. But the petitioner in this prayer does not have any sin to confess. Jesus Christ alone is the righteous sufferer. I would be uncomfortable coming to the Lord with a prayer like this without acknowledging my own guilt and my own complicity in racial disunity.
Second, this prayer assumes that a great many disagreements between the author and evangelical Christians are due to racism. This criticism is broadly true of all woke theology, but we see a particular example of this here. As she describes the white people she wishes to hate, she describes them as, “The people who welcome Black people in their churches and small groups but brand us as heretics if we suggest that Christianity is concerned with the poor and the oppressed.” I must assume that she is referring to white Christians who are uncomfortable with the social gospel, i.e., white evangelicals. But this is far too simplistic. There are many prominent black theologians, pastors, and Christians who also see the social gospel as theologically deficient. Let’s not dismiss evangelicals and gospel-centered Christians so easily by branding them as racists.
Finally, this prayer does nothing to help race relations. It casts nearly all white people as the enemies of God. It casts nearly all black people as friends of God. But the Bible tells us that those who have faith in Jesus Christ—no matter their ethnicity—are friends of God. We should not think that God is on the side of the oppressed no matter what. And we should not think that God is against those who are in power no matter what. This isn’t Christianity. This is (of course) Marxism.
So if you’re going to critically interact with this prayer and this book, please read the whole thing. It’s important to get the full context. And it’s important to read and understand these voices because Intersectionality is quickly becoming the new American religion. We have to deftly navigate these thorny theologies to be able to affirm legitimate pain points but also to expose some of the poisonous fruits that grow there.
Billy Otten is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and serves as Assistant Pastor of Faith PCA in Cincinnati, Ohio.
 A Rhythm of Prayer: a Collection of Meditations for Renewal. Edited by Sarah Bessey, Convergent, 2021.
 Walker-Barnes, Chanequa. A Rhythm of Prayer: a Collection of Meditations for Renewal. Edited by Sarah Bessey, Convergent, 2021. Page 69
 Psalm 137
 Ibid, 69
 Ibid, 70