|Payne Theological Seminary|
In December, 1955, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave what he called "the most decisive speech of my life." (The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.; p. 58) On December 1 Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to move when the bus operator asked her to get up and move. She was arrested. Her trial was set for Monday, December 5.
Dr. King and other African American leaders called for a bus boycott. The following announcement was distributed:
Don’t ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or any place Monday, December 5. Another Negro Woman has been arrested and put in jail because she refused to give up her bus seat. Don’t ride the buses to work to town, to school, or any where on Monday. If you work, take a cab, or share a ride, or walk. Come to a mass meeting, Monday at 7: 00 p.m. at the Holt Street Baptist Church for further instruction. (Ib., p. 52)
Dr. King was asked to speak at the mass meeting. He writes of his experience preparing for this speech:
"I was now almost overcome, obsessed by a feeling of inadequacy. In this state of anxiety, I wasted five minutes of the original twenty. With nothing left but faith in a power whose matchless strength stands over against the frailties and inadequacies of human nature, I turned to God in prayer. My words were brief and simple, asking God to restore my balance and to be with me in a time when I needed His guidance more than ever." (Ib., pp. 58-59)
When this amazing, Spirit-led message was over, King describes what happens:
"As I took my seat the people rose to their feet and applauded. I was thankful to God that the message had gotten over and that the task of combining the militant and the moderate had been at least partially accomplished. The people had been as enthusiastic when I urged them to love as they were when I urged them to protest.
As I sat listening to the continued applause I realized that this speech had evoked more response than any speech or sermon I had ever delivered, and yet it was virtually unprepared. I came to see for the first time what the older preachers meant when they said, “Open your mouth and God will speak for you.” While I would not let this experience tempt me to overlook the need for continued preparation, it would always remind me that God can transform man’s weakness into his glorious opportunity." (Ib., p. 61)