NORFOLK -- Only a financial miracle can save the black weekly Journal and Guide, but the president of the publishing company says the newspaper will pay back its debt to the Internal Revenue Service in time to avoid liquidation.

The 87-year-old Journal and Guide owes the IRS $78,000 in back taxes and was supposed to pay half that amount last January, with the rest due January 1988. A hearing is scheduled Dec. 1 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

If the newspaper cannot repay its debt, government attorneys have asked the court to liquidate the nation's third-oldest black weekly.

The Rev. Milton A. Reid, president of Guide Publishing, has been working to raise enough cash to save the newspaper but efforts, including a subscription drive, have fallen short.

The newspaper, which filed for reorganization under federal bankruptcy law in 1985, last month laid off more than a dozen employes to cut expenses. Four paid staff members and three volunteers were left to put out abbreviated editions.

Reid, who bought the newspaper in 1974 for $84,000, said it was in worse financial condition than he had been led to believe. In July 1985 he was voted out as pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church amid allegations that he had fallen almost $15,000 behind in withholding tax payments to the IRS and had used church offerings to bail out the pape