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President's Speaker Series Welcomes Faith Leaders in Discussion on the Power of Prayer in Healing a Divided Nation

Will Ford III and Matt LockettOn February 16, 2022, at 6 PM, the Pepperdine University community gathered in Elkins Auditorium and via Livestream for the President’s Speaker Series featuring a powerful discussion with faith leaders Will Ford III and Matt Lockett. Ford and Lockett, coauthors of the book The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America, shared how providence and prayer not only brought them together but also uncovered hidden truths of their linked histories. 

Pepperdine president Jim Gash welcomed attendees and shared his hope that guests would be inspired and encouraged in knowing that the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., is alive, uplifting us to exemplify courage and remain authentic to create a more just and welcoming world.

“What we are trying to do here Pepperdine is build a community, one in which we all feel that we belong,” said Jaye Goosby Smith, vice president of community belonging, who followed Gash at the podium. “That really does take the power of God. It is so evident in listening to and Lockett’s story that the power of God is working.” 

Ford, the director of the marketplace leadership major at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, and the founder of Hilkiah Ministries, opened the discussion by relating the impact of his mother’s prayers on his personal and spiritual growth. Ford recalled overhearing his mother pray for him in the late hours of the night, which became the foundation of his own understanding of the power of prayer to change lives and the world. 

Ford also detailed the significance of prayer throughout his family’s history and presented a family heirloom—a centuries-old kettle pot—that has become a symbol of faith and hope. Moving toward the pot perched on the stage, Ford described how his formerly enslaved ancestors in Lake Providence, Louisiana, would whisper prayers of freedom for their children and subsequent generations into the upturned pot to muffle their voices. Historically, explained Ford, enslavers were fearful that prayer would inspire hope in the enslaved and encourage them to pursue freedom. Referencing the divisions present in the nation today, Ford shared that many are still uniting in prayer for freedom. 

“What impact is your prayer life having over someone else?” Ford asked. “I believe God wants us to use a united church to heal the division in our nation right now.”

Lockett, the executive director of the Justice House of Prayer DC located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, detailed how prayer and providence brought him and Ford together on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2005. Since their meeting at a prayer gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the two established what would become a decade-long friendship and launched a joint pursuit of forgiveness despite their painful linked histories, echoing the importance of picking up the baton of prayer and revival from the previous generations.

“When we hear about painful things we want to distance ourselves from them, but God was bringing me right into the middle of it,” Lockett said. 

After years of research, Lockett discovered his ancestors’ estate enslaved Ford’s ancestors. Lockett’s family estate, closely tied to the Civil War efforts, was also the location of Robert E. Lee’s final battle of the Civil War in April 1865. What could have easily been a moment of division between Ford and Lockett instead brought the two together to experience forgiveness and grace, allowing them to harness the prayers of their ancestors and continue healing for future generations.

“We hear about generational blessings and generational curses. They represent dominating themes and can also become storylines of what our families are meant to be about,” said Ford. “What storyline do we want to be a part of—the healing or the hurt?”

The coauthors closed the night encouraging guests to carefully steward the stories of their families—no matter how dark and painful—and commit to uniting in prayer and faith in order to cultivate revival within their families, their communities, and the nation. 

A recording of the event is available on the President’s Speaker Series website.