How to pray for JusticeAndy Freeman - 10 Oct 2012
It can be a challenging and difficult process to try and work out how to pray for justice in our world?
- Where do I begin?
- Our word for justice feels so angry ... or maybe not angry enough... what emotions should I feel?
- Will my prayer make any difference at all?
Just 24-7 began with a question. How can we as a movement be more intentional about social justice? There were so many dreams and ideas circulating at that time, but then we realised that God has continually spoken a simple message to the 24-7 Prayer movement - start with prayer. Is there anything that exists within the 24-7 family that didn't start in a "whispered, feeble, faithless prayer". Is there anything bearing fruit which didn't begin with someone on their knees? The answer is no. Prayer has been where we discover the will of God, where we speaks to us and challenges us, and ultimately where he sends us.
So how do we pray ? How do we overcome the questions we raised above and all the others that are in your head right now ?
Here's four simple suggestions:
Jesus' disciples, on seeing the intimacy and depth of relationship he had with the Father, asked Jesus a simple question; "Lord teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). Why not start by asking God? You could gather a group of friends together who share a passion for justice and simply ask the question - would you teach us to pray Lord? See what he says. You could do worse than allow the Lord's prayer to guide you in this seeking of God.
- "Hallowed be your name" - Begin with worship - He is still Lord, even in areas of injustice.
- "Your kingdom come" - What does God's kingdom look like? How could his rule and reign change the landscape of injustice?
- "Daily bread" - What are the practical needs around you?
- "Forgive" - who are the sinners and sinned against? What responsibility do we have to say sorry or to forgive? Pray for outbreaks of mercy
Theologian Karl Barth rightly recognised that all Christian mission begins with the love of God. His concept was called 'Missio Dei' or the Mission of God. Whatever we do or pray for those who suffer around the world starts with the compassion and mercy of God.
'While we were still sinners, Christ died for us' Romans 5:9
What is the plan of God? Big question, and one we may not know the answer to, but often God hints and reveals his heart. Ask and then Seek Him - what is he doing in your locality or inthe world? How can we join in?
'We believe in God' writes David Bosch, 'not because we despair of the present and future; rather we believe in the present and future of both man and the world because we believe in God.' We have hope. God can and does change the world. Pray with hope, believing that God can act. Many years ago God challenged me to begin to pray for a cure for AIDS? Impossible maybe in my eyes, but for the God who made DNA and knows the tiny details of life - maybe not. Even the greatest injustice and the largest problem can be overcome by the power of God. He can do it, and he often chooses to act through us.
Whatever the issue, we will need to keep going. Jesus teaches this through the story of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18. She knocks at the door of an unjust judge demanding justice, and he hears her not because of her case, but her persistence in pestering him. It's important to notice that this is not an allegory - Jesus doesn't say God is like this - he chooses his words carefully. His asks his hearers to 'listen to what the unjust judge says' (verse 6) but then declares 'And will not God' - how much more will a just and loving God respond to persistence. We need to keep going. Somethings take time. There are battles to be won - keep praying.
Some tools to help us to pray
a) Hold a focused prayer day or week. Why not try setting up a prayer room with a specific justice theme? Invite people to join you. b) Encourage daily prayer. Why not write some simple prayers from a passage like Isaiah 58 which focuses on the issue of justice. There are some examples in the liturgy/prayers section of this site. c) Get outside - go to a place connected with the issue you want to pray for. Maybe a HIV Hospice or a Homeless Shelter. d) Pray with others. Gather a group of like minded people - don't do things alone. e) Be responsible. Some issues of injustice involve crime or danger - be sensible about what you choose to do and always enlist help and advice.
Mission has it's origin in the Fatherly heart of God. He is the fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is not possible to penetrate any deeper: there is mission because God loves man. David Bosch