'How We Open Our Hearts to God'

A spiritual lifeline for African-American slaves, prayer became a source of divine inspiration during the civil rights movement.

BY: Coretta Scott King


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I believe that this prayer was a critical turning point for the African-American freedom struggle, because from that point forward, we had a leader who was divinely inspired and could not be turned back by threats or any form of violence. This kind of courage and conviction is truly contagious, and I know his example inspired me to carry on through the difficult days of my journey.

A few nights after Martin's moment of truth, I had mine. I was sitting in my living room in Montgomery, chatting with a friend, while my new baby daughter, Yolanda, was asleep in the back room. Suddenly, we heard a loud thump on the front porch. Because of all the recent threats, I urged my friend to get up. "It sounds as if someone has hit the house. We'd better move to the back."

As we moved toward the back, we felt a thunderous blast, followed by shattering glass and billowing smoke. I hurried to Yolanda's room and thanked God that she was all right. I called the church where my husband was speaking, but he was addressing the audience at the time. He called me back shortly afterward as a large crowd gathered at our house, and then he rushed home.

The crowd was angry at what had happened, and there was a lot of tension between the police and those who had gathered, some of whom were armed with guns, rocks, and bottles. In the midst of all of the turmoil, I said a silent prayer for the protection of our family and the restoration of peace. Then Martin began to speak to the crowd from the front porch of our home. "My wife and baby are all right, " he said. "I want you to go home and put down your weapons. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence."

As Martin continued to speak, I was enveloped by a growing calm. "God is with us," I thought. "God is truly with us." The fear and anger around me began to melt like the receding snows of spring. Almost at that moment, Martin concluded his remarks to the crowd: "Remember, if I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with this movement. Go home with this glowing faith and this radiant assurance."

Martin's speech on that day was yet another crucial turning point for our freedom struggle because it set the tone of nonviolence that gave our movement its unique credibility and enabled all of the victories we achieved under his leadership.

From that day on, I was fully prepared for my role as Martin's wife and partner in the struggle. There would be many more days of difficulty and worry, and there would be many more prayers. But the unwavering belief that we were doing God's work became a daily source of faith and courage that undergirded our freedom movement.

It is said that every prayer is heard and every prayer is answered in some way, and I believe this is true for people of all faiths. I still believe that the millions of prayers spoken by African Americans from the Middle Passage on down to today have been heard by a righteous and loving God.

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