A Father’s Day confessional prayer inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.

Thinking about "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and the United States' prison system, Daniel Heath offers a prayer of confession for Father's Day.

A prayer of confession inspired by the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written by Martin Luther King Jr. As an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I am aware of the significance of King’s letter as it relates to our Book of Confessions and the possibility of the letter becoming part of the Book of Confessions. I imagine the following Father’s Day prayer offered in a prison during a prayer service for inmates and those charged to care for them, recognizing that there are current and potential fathers behind bars.

Let us pray.

God of mercy, freedom and justice,

We confess we have fallen short of living in community with our neighbors, lands and opportunities. We confess falling short of living in community, especially with fathers, using bars from a broken system to create borders between fathers and their families. Today we especially pray for every person gathered, for great grandfathers and granddads, daddies and godfathers, “papas” and “pops.” We pray for those who desire to serve as fathers and those who still grieve the loss of a father. We pray for times when we took fatherhood for granted and those memories of persons who did not act like fathers.

We confess not always calling fathers by their given names and for (re)naming them robbers, murderers, arsonists, rapists, crooks, hoodlums and dead beats. We confess we have often only examined outward appearance and actions. We have overlooked the athletes, artists, and architects inside, the chefs, engineers, and principals inside, the surgeons, judges, and computer scientists inside. Merciful one, help us to unlock love that we might see inside.

We confess we have used freedom to bind and used privilege to create pain. We have treated our fathers as outsiders and their sons as property. We have promoted cages over counseling for the sake of power and profits. Help us to let go of everything that needs to be free. Help us to fight for the freedom of all, especially our fathers today. We pray for freedom of thought, clarity of mind, an open spirit and overflowing hearts.

We confess our response to missteps and mistakes has been extreme, delayed and unfair. We confess at times not walking in true justice but running to injustice. We confess to catering to evil systems and forsaking care for individuals, especially fathers. Help us to remember that when one is bound, all are bound. Reveal to us alternative paths for penalty and rehabilitation. Help us to do right all the time and believe that it’s always the right time to do right. We pray for the care, safety, justice, hope, love and thriving of all fathers gathered and those around the world, today and until the final judgment. Amen.