I grew up in a religious family. My mother was the vibrant woman who exuberantly gave church announcements every Sunday. She was also the woman who rushed to the altar to get the names and contact information of the people who came to Christ during altar call. I (as well as my older brother) sang in the choir, we were on the usher board, and highly active in all the youth groups.

At an early age, I was exposed to how “Church folk,” should live a life that’s pleasing to the King. I was taught to fear God, and that he’d never put more on me than I could bear. I was also taught that regardless of how bad things are, that God was working it out for my good. I leaned into what I was taught, and a foundation of faith has carried me through many valleys.

Then life happened. The facade of “Putting on” for other people started to eat-away at me.

Continued Prayer + No Change = Resentment 

At a certain point in my life I realized there are some things that prayer alone simply cannot fix. In fact, I’ve grown to believe that using prayer as a scapegoat for issues and problems has become a major issue within the African American community.

Call and Response

You cannot pray mental illness away if there is a chemical imbalance in your sons brain. You cannot pray that your son gets a fair trial if you don’t have the means to pay for an adequate attorney. You cannot pray for continued health and strength if you do not have access to healthcare and/or insurance. You cannot pray the gay out of your son.

In order to grow spiritually and live fruitful lives, it is imperative that we shake the old traditions that are killing our black sons. Pray for your son, but also communicate with him (not at him). In effective communication, listening plays a greater role than talking. It’s important to know that solid communication develops over time through trust and understanding. You cannot expect your son to open-up to you overnight. Lastly, seek professional help with whatever he may be facing. If you think something may be wrong: Do a Google search, look around online forums, and/or ask peers. As a parent it’s your duty to FIND OUT.

What good is a prophet who can hear the word of God, but cannot tell that their son is bipolar and needs medication to live a balanced life? What good is a mother who preaches that God is loving and forgiving, yet has a son living under a bridge because being gay is an “Abomination” and he can’t come home?

We have allowed prayer, the pinnacle tool of worship, to become a silent assassin in our communities. It is critical that we begin to address family and parenting from a new perspective. A perspective that takes mind, body, and spirit into consideration.