In honor of Black History Month, our dear friend Will Ford, III, tells part of his family’s story.
The first time I heard Dutch speak was at a conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He shared about the time when he spoke at Christ for the Nations, agreed in prayer with past generations, and learned about the synergy of the ages. He said, “Not only can we agree in prayer with the person next to us, but we can also agree with the prayers of generations behind us. The prayers of Abraham and the other patriarchs are still alive before God’s throne. The same is true of the prayers of those who make up the godly heritage in this nation.”
I wept the entire time he spoke. I was reminded of a cast-iron kettle that has been passed down in my family for generations. It is believed to be more than 200 years old. Christian slaves on my father’s side of the family in Lake Providence, Louisiana, used the kettle for cooking and for washing clothes. But I also learned that they used the kettle for prayer.
A very wicked slave owner owned my ancestors. He would beat his slaves for any minor offense. A story has been passed down about my Great Uncle Willie who went fishing without permission. The master decided to use Uncle Willie as an example. When Willie returned from fishing, he was tied to a tree. His face, chest, and stomach were pressed up against the tree. The slave master then beat Willie with a shredded leather strap that had pieces of rocks, glass, and iron attached to it. When his beating was finally over, his back bled profusely. Family members placed lard on a sheet to keep this bandage from sticking to his skin and wrapped it around his body. In spite of their efforts, however, Willie bled to death because of the inhumane treatment of his master.
This same slave master would also beat my ancestors for praying. Slaves were not allowed to pray on his plantation. He assumed they were praying for freedom, and he didn’t want them even to consider the possibility of hope for this. Ironically, he wanted his slaves to be Christians feeling this made them more committed to him and better workers. In part, this was because of what he taught them. He and other slave masters would pervert the gospel and teach, “If you slaves want to go to Heaven, you better obey your master. That is what this Bible says.” While we now know that is not what Scripture teaches, it was easy to tell this to slaves back then, since it was against the law for slaves to read, or for anyone to teach them to read.
If the slave master heard the slaves praying, he would beat them, but they prayed anyway. In spite of this danger, they would sneak into a barn late at night while everyone else was asleep, making sure their prayer meeting was never seen or heard. As they carefully opened the door, they eased into the barn carrying this black cast-iron kettle. Once inside, they turned the kettle upside down so the opening was on the dirt floor; then they placed four rocks under the rim of the kettle to prop it up and create an opening. They laid on the dirt floor around the kettle, with their mouths close to the opening. The kettle muffled their voices as they prayed through the night.
Revelation 5:8 speaks of “bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” before the throne of God. Revelation 8:3-5 says that at some future point, no doubt when God determines the time is right, He adds His incense and fire to those prayers and throws them to earth in the form of judgments and power. My family’s kettle literally became a bowl of intercession.
One of my family members, who was present in those prayer meetings, passed down the following information along with the kettle:
“These slaves were not praying for their freedom at all. They didn’t think they would see freedom for themselves, so they prayed for the freedom of their children and their children’s children.”
That absolutely amazes me. They risked their lives to pray for the freedom of their children and the ensuing generations!
One day, freedom did come. While many of those who prayed did not live to see freedom, their prayers were answered for the next generation. The young girl who passed down these stories attended these prayer meetings until slavery was abolished. As a teenager, she was set free from slavery. Can you imagine being the one who freedom fell upon, having for many years listened to others pray for your freedom? I believe this teenage girl saw fit to pass down this kettle because she knew that not only was she standing on the sacrifice of others’ devotion to Christ, but so was everyone in our family born after her. She was careful to preserve and pass on both the kettle and its history. She passed it to her daughter, Harriet Locket, who passed it to Nora Locket, who passed it to William Ford, Sr., who passed it to William Ford, Jr., who gave it to me, William Ford, III.
As Dutch spoke about agreeing in prayer with past generations and the synergy of the ages, he pointed out that many promises made to Abraham and other biblical patriarchs were not fulfilled within their lifetimes. The individuals were helping God make history, but the history they were making would not be complete without the work of future generations. Hebrews 11:39-40 speaks of these heroes of faith: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (emphasis added).
God sees the generations as being much more connected than we do. He may promise a person something and do it through his or her grandchildren, for in His mind, doing it through a person’s descendants is doing it for or through him or her. And He doesn’t always choose to announce His future timing in advance!
I have begun to see that I am the recipient of answered prayers from centuries ago! This is humbling. But more than that, I also have come to realize that the benefits aren’t supposed to end with me. I have become part of an amazing historical chain – a generational connection – through which benefits are passed on, but so is the calling. I’m reaching back to possess, but I’m also pressing on to propagate and perpetuate the process for today and for the future. I’m connecting with history, and through the connection, I’m making history. I’m a recipient, but hopefully, I also become a resource. I’m the answer to yesterday’s prayers, but I’m also a question: Will I move the link forward? This is what Isaac and Jacob did. They connected with Abraham’s promises to and from God, reaped the benefits, and accepted the responsibility of moving the entire process into the future.
As I began to meditate on these concepts, I thought about the passion God has given me for revival and His heart for young people. It dawned on me that I could agree with the prayers made underneath my family’s kettle by those who had gone before me; not only their prayers but also the prayers of revivalists and abolitionists who risked their lives to set a nation free. I thought, Lord, I can agree with the prayers of our forefathers, for the spiritual freedom of today’s generation and future generations, as well. What an amazing truth that as Christians, we have a powerful legacy of prayer, and unfinished business to intercede for America.
Join me as we pray:
Father, John Quincy Adams said it best when he wrote, “Posterity—you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it.” Help us to make good use of what You started in America. Thank You for those who sacrificed yesterday so that we can have freedom today. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, who died and rose again and who ever lives to make intercession for us. We thank You that the same God who broke the power of slavery can break the power of every stronghold in our nation today. Connect us with the past revival power that moves the link forward for future generations. Unite Your Church! Make us repairers of the breach, the restorers of many generations. Teach us to pray. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Decree with me:
We decree that God is breaking the power of strongholds in our nation and WILL send revival!
Today’s post was taken from the book HISTORY MAKERS, written by Will Ford, III.