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Alana Wiens, January 25th, 2011
On the morning of 13 January 2010 I rushed out the door to try to catch a bus/train to London in the middle of a snowstorm. Once I realised nothing here was moving, I came home and popped open my laptop. Might as well catch up on what was going on in the world.
I was horrified as article after article came up about the huge earthquake in Haiti that had happened while I was sleeping. It felt somehow like anything creating that much damage should have been felt around the world.
Sitting at my desk in Southern England I felt completely helpless. The destruction was beyond my comprehension and somehow sending in a few pounds to a charity seemed to lack any impact in the face of the scale of the tragedy. I was powerless.
But, I wasn’t. As one small human there was very little I could do. But as one small praying human I could stand in the gap for these people. I could call upon a power so much greater than myself. I could pray. If only I knew what to pray for.
So, I took to the internet to get some more information. This blog post was the result of that search.
When the news pops up of the latest crisis, it’s easy to feel helpless. Earthquakes in Haiti, floods in Pakistan, riots, questionable elections, or any human suffering can leave us broken hearted but feeling helpless. What can one person thousands of miles do to make a difference? At those moments, prayer can feel like a cop out and how do you even pray for something you know so little about?
Pray Informed - A few quick resources can quickly give some background information on the subject. Some sources I like to use are BBC world news, CNN International, Globe and Mail , United Nations and the Operation World book. Also look around for Christian world relief charities that have news of their operations on the ground. Try to balance out your sources from several countries and perspectives, if you can.
As you read, think about how the information relates to the current issue. For example, we are currently experiencing a dramatic rise in global food prices. This is a fairly small story in most of our media sources, but it’s something that will will have far reaching implications. As you think about the issue, there are a few questions to ask. In 2008 this same problem was devastating to many countries and brought deadly riots. Which countries? (Haiti, Somalia and Cameroon) Which food supplies are now rising dramatically in price? (wheat, soy beans, sugar, & corn) Who eats them as a basis for their diet?
Pray Positively - As tempting as it can be to pray for the fall of corrupt leaders or against other religion, don’t. Pray positively. Instead of praying for the fall of a leader, pray that God would raise up new leaders of integrity who will rule with compassion. Pray blessing on people so they will see God’s goodness. Pray for safety for those in danger. Don’t pray against the darkness - pray for light in the darkness. My one exception seems to be praying against weather and natural disasters! In the case of the food price article, we can be praying for good harvests this year, for wisdom for leaders in distributing food to their people, for improved farming techniques, for self-sufficiency for the countries that keep getting squeezed when these things happen, and for food to bridge the emergency gap and keep these people alive.
Pray Mercy - Reading or watching news items it’s easy to jump to creating the ‘good guys’ team and the ‘bad guys’ team. In scripture we’re commanded to love our enemies and that no one is beyond the love of God. Why not pray for the transformation of those you see as in the wrong? Why not pray their well being? Why not pray for transformation in the communities, schools, jails, gangs, families, etc that helped shape them? It is the great mysterious love shown in mercy that will set us apart.
Pray Politically - Some may say Christians have no place in politics, but I heartily disagree. Pray for leaders in hurting countries (along with your own), that they would lead with wisdom, compassion and integrity. Pray that they would be used by God for his purposes. And pray for the poor. Whatever the crisis, chances are it is will always hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
Pray Expectantly - We don’t pray as those without hope. Pray knowing we are praying to the One who taught us to love, mercy and compassion. We already know the end of the story.
Pray Persistently - When a country is in the headlines they tend to be at the front of our minds. However, with most crisis the suffering will go on long after the media leaves. In many cases a short term crisis will only intensify long term issues in a country. In 2008 one of the countries with riots over the rising food prices was Haiti. In 2010 the country was back in the news with the earthquake that did so much damage to an already hurting country. The headlines may be smaller now, but the people of Haiti still need your prayers. The current rising food prices will only add to the suffering.
Pray Locally - This may seem counterintuitive, but bear with me. Look for a local tie. Do you have friends or neighbours who are impacted? Are their immigrant groups in your area from the involved country? This will help you put a face on the issue. Will the crisis impact people locally? In the case of rising food staple prices, it will impact destitute countries the quickest and most dramatically. However, it will impact locally as well. The poor will be effected by +10% rise in wheat, sugar, soy beans and other staples. And as inflation rises, that will negatively impact charitable donations to organisations who already struggle to feed the hungry. Trust me, they need your prayers!
Large scale tragedy can make us feel impossibly small and powerless. Step outside your own power and pray. Don’t be paralyzed by tragedy or crisis. Don’t look at how big you are. Call out to God with whatever information you have.
Pray! Pray with information and hope. Pray for change. Pray for those far away, as well as those close by. Pray ‘Your Kingdom come’ in whatever situation.
I’ve never set foot in Haiti (though I hope to one day), but I know I’m not powerless to help the people, or those in other nations in crisis. I can pray when the crisis is here and long after the crisis has passed.
Don’t be paralyzed by tragedy or crisis. Don’t look at how big you are. Call out to God with whatever information you have.
Alana Wiens is originally from Halifax, Canada but now lives and serves 24-7 Prayer as part of the Reconcile Community in Reading, England. Alana works with the 24-7 training team and does communication work for a church in London. She also enjoys photography, tea, talking with friends, writing and movies. Further ramblings can be found on her blog and you can also follow Alana's often random life on twitter.
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