There’s a “season for every activity under the heavens,” as the author of Ecclesiastes proclaims.
But there’s one activity Scripture implores us to engage in “without ceasing” — and that’s prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 beseeches us to “pray continually.” We’re told in Colossians 4:2 to devote ourselves to invocations. And, though there are many other verses that should direct our prayer life, perhaps Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) best summarizes the perpetuous devotion to which we’re called: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
This is the very mandate actor Denzel Washington lived out during the evening of March 27, when the Oscars went off the rails as Will Smith walked on stage and infamously slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face.
It was a surreal moment that drew outrage and endless debate in culture and media. People feverishly picked apart every millisecond of the scenario. From explanatory theories of what unfolded to strange excuses and misplaced blame, critics had no shortage of unleashed rantings to rave.
And as the world reeled and fixated on the drama of it all, some lost sight of an important reality: the absolute need for prayer amid the cacophony — prayer for Smith, Rock, and everyone involved.
Distinguished actor Denzel Washington sat down with me during our 2022 @ThisIsILS and taught us how he used his faith to mitigate a painful situation.— T.D. Jakes (@BishopJakes) April 3, 2022
Missed our 2022 ILS? Sign up at https://t.co/AgxjKFH0Rw for the replay and register for our 2023 conference as well! #ThisIsILS pic.twitter.com/1rLh9mUKCs
But this wasn’t lost on Washington. Just seconds after the slap, the well-respected actor who has increasingly vocalized his Christian faith, took action. Recognizing the intensity of the situation, he immediately turned to prayer, later telling Bishop T.D. Jakes how invoking God was the only viable solution to the moment.
“Who are we to condemn?” Washington said while reflecting on the incident in discussion with Jakes over the weekend. “I don’t know all the ins and outs of the situation, but I know the only solution was prayer.”
The actor knew the importance of turning to the Lord in the heat of the moment. Rather than join in panic, ignore the problem or take another worldly approach, Washington decided to act upon our Ephesians 6:18 mandate.
Like the others around him, he could have remained seated in shock and awe. He could have whispered and wondered while disengaging from what was happening around him.
But Washington took a different route and decided to pray alongside Smith.
In reality, it was a simple act of obedience. But, in practice, Washington’s immediate, level-headed, and God-focused response to the crisis now poses a convicting reminder to us all.
The vast majority of us will never behave in a manner that garners international rebuke nor will we be witness to one, yet we all face trials, tribulations, and problems in our everyday lives. And when we do, what’s our first response?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s often much easier to rage, judge, yell, ignore, or flee. Yet we’re called to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” We’re called to seek the Lord not only when we face these situations but when others, too, are in the midst of turmoil.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
We don’t know what Washington said during his prayer with Smith, but we do know that he viewed invoking God as the only path forward amid what became an international incident of sorts. His act, though simple, offers a reminder to us all to seek God — even in the most challenging and complex moments.
Washington also left us with another important reminder: never give the devil a foothold. Minutes after the slap, Smith revealed during his acceptance speech for Best Actor one of the things Washington told him.
“Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you,'” Smith said.
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Washington shed more light on his “devil” comment during his sit-down with Jakes.
“Well, there’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” the actor said. “You know, the devil goes, ‘Oh, no, leave him alone, he’s my favorite. Don’t bother him.’ Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because you’re trying to do something right.”
Washington continued, “And for whatever reason, the devil got a hold of that circumstance that night.”
Consider what James 4:7 proclaims: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
This command, which includes submitting ourselves to God and operating based on that relationship, brings us back to our first reminder: prayer.
When we prayerfully approach life, intentionally seek the Lord, and flee from evil, we find ourselves living in accordance with God’s will. Let’s remember these realities in our own lives and when we confront direct and indirect struggles — and let’s take time to pray for Smith, Rock, and everyone else involved.
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