Dangerous Prayers: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)

Dangerous Prayers: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)

Martin Luther King Jr. is widely regarded as American’s leading advocate for nonviolence and one of the greatest leaders in world history. Dr. King led the American civil rights movement from December 1955 until his untimely death on April 4, 1968. During those thirteen years, more advances were made toward racial equality in America than in the previous 350 years combined.

Born on January 15, 1929, at the family home in Atlanta to the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King, the young boy grew up to follow his father into the ministry. In 1951, he moved to Boston to attend school. While there, he began dating Coretta Scott, a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. They married in 1953. In 1955, he graduated with a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University School of Theology.

During the late 1950s, Dr. King launched a campaign to achieve legal equality for African Americans in the United States. His strategy involved utilizing acts of nonviolent resistance, the power of communication, and grassroots efforts, which together achieved seemingly impossible goals. Dr. King also served as the spokesperson for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ultimately led to the end of racial segregation on public transportation. In 1963, he led the March on Washington, which drew 250,000 people to the national mall and influenced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act, making it illegal to discriminate against minorities.

Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and his “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered messages in American history.

He is the only non-president to have a national holiday to memorialize him, and at age thirty-five he became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

O God,… we thank Thee for Thy Church, founded upon Thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon Thee… Help us to realize that man was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children, Black, White, Red, and Yellow, will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Excerpted with permission from Dangerous Prayers by Susan Hill, copyright Thomas Nelson.

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Your Turn

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States. How do you think we as the Church should respond to issues of injustice and inequality? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!

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Susan Hill is a writer and Bible teacher with an MA in theology and a BS in journalism. She and her husband, John, live in Nashville, Tennessee, with two unruly goldendoodles.

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