April 9th, 2016, will go down as the day God was focusing on healing a divided nation and uniting the Church at United Cry DC 2016 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. April 9th, at different times in history, has been significantly used to address division and bring unity.

For example most are familiar with the fact that April 9th 1865 was the day the south surrendered to the north in the Civil War. In 1857, many felt a Supreme Court decision sealed the fate of enslaved African Americans. In Dred Scott v. Sandford, Supreme Court justices ruled by a 7-2 decision that slaves were the property of their masters – with no human rights and no representation in court. However, because of prayer and acts of obedience, hearts changed and eventually this demonic decree was broken over America. Revival was released and justice came in the form of a Civil War, which ended April 9th, 1865, ultimately ending slavery in America.

Forty-one years later on another April 9th, the Azusa street revival started in 1906. This was a revival that united the races in Christ like never before. Native Americans, Asian, White, Hispanic and African Americans all were present at Azusa Street. During a time when America was suffering from division after reconstruction, God used a united Church to heal a divided nation through this powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Another significant event on April 9th happened in 1968. That’s the date of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral. In his “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. King said he dreamed of the day when “…the sons of former slaves, and the sons of former slave owners, could sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” God is serious in this season of the Church uniting together because He hasn’t forgotten about this God given dream, which is rooted in Jesus’ prayer of John 17, that God’s “glory would come, and make us one, so that the world will believe.”

This was providentially made clear to me through the relationship of my dear friend Matt Lockett, Director of Bound 4 Life and The Justice House of Prayer in Washington, DC. We actually met on MLK celebration day, January 17th, 2005, where I was speaking at a conference in Washington, DC. Before we had the conference that night, we had a prayer gathering at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his famous speech. 


A Past Connection

It was at that prayer meeting that my friend Matt and I first met each other. We then talked for the first time after I spoke that night at Hope Christian Church. Matt eventually left corporate America, and moved to DC, taking over Bound4Life and Justice House of Prayer in DC, and we became very good friends over the past 11 years. We didn’t know, however, that God had more in store for us, through our family heritage.

It takes a book to chronicle the amazing ways the Lord led us on this journey of discovery (which we are working on). I can only highlight a few of the remarkable ways God connected us. First, about 2 years ago, Matt made the incredible discovery that on April 6th, 1865, the last Civil War battle of General Robert E. Lee (which brought about the surrender of General Lee on April 9th 1865), happened at a farmhouse called Lockett’s Farm in Virginia.

Matt found out that he is a direct descendant of those same Locketts. In other words, over 150 years ago, the Civil War ended in Matt’s family’s front yard! The other amazing discovery we made is that Matt’s family owned many slaves in Virginia, Louisiana and other states. After a year of research by both of us, we are certain through empirical evidence, that Matt’s family owned my family during slavery. This takes a deeper meaning when you understand the well-documented story of how the slaves in my family prayed for freedom.

It’s for this reason that a 200 year-old black kettle pot has been passed down by my Christian slave forbearers in Lake Providence, Louisiana. While used for cooking and washing clothes during the day, this kettle was secretly used for prayer. Forbidden to pray by their slave master, my ancestors were beaten unmercifully if found doing so. However, in spite of their master’s cruelty, and because of their love for Jesus, they prayed anyway. At night, sneaking into a barn, they carried this cast iron cooking pot into their secret prayer meeting. As others looked out, those inside prayed.

Turning this pot upside-down on the barn floor, they propped it up with rocks – suspending the pot a few inches above the ground. Then, while lying prostrate or kneeling on the ground, they prayed in a whisper underneath the kettle to muffle their voices. The story passed down with the kettle is that they were risking their lives to pray for the next generation. Once freedom came, an unknown teenage girl decided to keep this pot, and pass it down along with the story of how others prayed for our freedom. She passed the story and the kettle down to Harriet Lockett; who then passed it on to Nora Lockett, who then passed it on to William Ford Sr., then to William Ford Jr. – who then gave it to me, William Ford III. I learned that my forefathers were originally slaves in Virginia, but were then sent to a plantation in Lake Providence, Louisiana, the city where my father was born.

Though this kettle was only used as an acoustic means to keep their prayers from being heard, it’s been passed down in our family as a reminder of the prayer bowls in Heaven of Revelation 5:8. Amazingly, God heard the whispered prayers of Lockett slaves in Louisiana, and with His shout, ended slavery in the front yard of the family that owned them at Lockett’s Farm in Virginia.  Nevertheless, being the God of the past and the future, He then connected two sons from those same family lines together, to war against injustice in their day, and cry out in prayer for awakening in their time.

The Dream Must Live On….

Matt and I have been awed, stunned and wept together as Christian brothers over what God has revealed to us. And mind you, we first met each other on MLK celebration day, at the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King said in his speech that he dreamed of the day when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners could sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Ford Lockett Sons

We also learned that God wasn’t only answering my forefather’s prayers for freedom, but also the prayers of one of Matt’s forefather as well. Matt also discovered that one of his forefathers preached the Gospel with Francis Asbury and was a revivalist and abolitionist against slavery. You see, all of us in America have generational curses and generational blessings we can connect to in our families in our regions, even in our nation. The question God has before the nation and the Church is this: Are we going to be a part of the healing or the hurt? The blessing or the curse? God is asking us: “What storyline do you want to be a part of?”

Matt and I met on the day America celebrates the dreamer Dr. King, because God has a dream He wants to fulfill. It’s the prayer He’s still answering from His Son from John 17, that the “…glory would come, and make us one, so that the world would believe.” With the current racial tension in our nation today, this April 9th, on the anniversary of Dr. King’s burial, I believe God was saying that if we don’t deal with our division, the dream can’t live on.

United Cry DC 2016

In an effort to address this, Matt and I participated in one of the most powerful reconciliation efforts I’ve been apart of in 20 years of ministry. It was during the national prayer meeting, United Cry DC 2016, which took place on April 9th, 2016 at the Lincoln Memorial. Aware of the significance of this date, the organizers, Lewis and Rachel Hogan, connected with Bishop Harry Jackson and historian Mike Berry.

Through much prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit, they were able to assemble the following people to be part of the repentance portion of this prayer gathering: The great granddaughter of Dred Scott, Lynn Jackson; Bill Haley, descendant of Kunta Kinte who is also the grandson of Alex Haley, author of “Roots.” Also present from the King family were Dr. Alveda King, daughter of Rev. A.D. King, and Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

freephoto_WillFord4_DC_300As we sat in chairs on a stage at the Lincoln Memorial, water was poured into the kettle pot used by my forefathers for prayer, then collected in small pitchers for this solemn footwashing. Symbolically pouring water over our feet, prayers of forgiveness were made. First, to the King family, there was repentance for not comforting them during their season of grieving. Not only were Dr. King and his brother Rev. A. D. King assassinated, but their mother Mrs. Alberta Williams King was shot and killed in an assassination plot.

Just as important, prayers of forgiveness and repentance were made to the King family, for the Church not stewarding their father’s God given dream to fight for justice, unity and brotherly love. As intercessors, they received this act of contrition and forgiveness, and prayed for the healing of our nation. In the midst of this, other pastors washed the feet of Bill Haley and Lynn Jackson.

As this went on, Matt Lockett and I washed each others feet, at the spot where we first met. We were moved to tears. Mind you, this was all done at the spot where Dr. King said he dreamed of the day when, “…sons of former slaves, and sons of former slave owners, can sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” You see, God has used April 9th to make us one: In 1865 He used a Civil War; in 1906, He used a revival through Azusa Street; and in 1968, He used a reformer as a seed, Dr. King, to birth a new movement of love and unity that would spring up today.

After this, the Reconciled Church, a coalition led by Bishop Harry Jackson, awarded several national leaders the “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mantle of Destiny Award” from “The King Family Legacy Foundation.” It was given to recognize leaders that have worked for years to heal the race issue in America. We were charged to make disciples that would do justice, heal and reconcile today, as the King family prayed for those being mantled to continue on the work begun by their fathers, but started by Jesus in John 17.

Prophetically, though I was one of the proud recipients, there has been a new mantle released to us all. God hasn’t abandoned this dream because He hasn’t abandoned His Son’s prayer of John 17: “That Your glory may come, and make them one, so that the world will believe.”