From the novel Jubilee (1966), by Margaret Walker Alexander (1915-98); (Quoted in Conversations With God: Two Centuries of African-American Prayers, ed. by James M. Washington, pp. 211-212, HarperCollins).
Brother Ezekiel held the (two year old) child down close to her mother’s face and said soothingly, “It’s your mama, Vyry, say hello to you maw.” The child spoke, “Mama,” and then she whimpered. Hetta fell back on her pillows and Ezekiel handed the child back to Mama Sukey, who quickly took her outside into the night air.
After a moment Brother Ezekiel spoke again to the dying and exhausted woman. “Sis Hetta, I’m here, Brother Zeke, it’s me. Can I do something for you?”
“Pray,” she responded, “pray.”
He fell on his knees beside the bed and took her hand in his. The night was growing darker. Despite the full moon outside, spilling light through the great oak and magnolia trees, Granny Ticey had lighted a large tallow candle. It flared up suddenly, and eerie shadows searched the corners and crowded the room. Brother Ezekiel began to pray:
“Lord, God-a-mighty, you done told us in your Word to seek and we shall find; knock and the door be open; ask, and it shall be given when your love come twinklin down. And Lord, tonight we is a-seekin. Way down here in this rain-washed world, kneelin here by this bed of affliction pain, your humble servant is a-knockin, and askin for your lovin mercy, and your tender love. This here sister is tired of a-sufferin, Lord, and she wants to come home. We ask you to roll down that sweet chariot right here by her bed, just like you done for Elijah, so she can step in kinda easy like and ride on home to glory. Gather her in your bosom like you done Father Abraham and give her rest. She weak, Lord, and she weary, but her eyes is a-fixin for to light on them golden streets of glory and them pearly gates of God. She beggin for to set at your welcome table and feast on milk and honey. She wants to put on them angel wings and wear that crown and them pretty golden slippers. She done been broke like a straw in the wind and she ain’t got no strength, but she got the faith, Lord, and she got the promise of your Almighty Word. Lead her through this wilderness of sin and tribulation. Give her grace to stand by the river of Jordan and cross her over to hear Gabe (colloquial for archangel Gabriel) blow that horn. Take her home, Lord God, take her home.”
And the sobbing woman listening to him pray breathed fervent amens. When Brother Ezekiel got up from his knees he put the hand of Sis Hetta on her cover. But she no longer seemed to hear what he was saying.
2 Kings 2:11 — As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Psalms 34:17-19 — The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.
Two prayers by Martin Luther for when death draws near:
O Lord Jesus Christ, will not this misery finally come to an end, and the glory of the children of God soon begin? You have promised us the day in which you will deliver us from all manner of evil; let it come, even in this hour, it if be your will, and make an end of all misery. Amen.
Luther’s prayer on the day of his death, Feb. 18, 1546: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, faithful God.