The Transformative Power of Prayer in a Culture of Knives and GangsBen Palmer - 24 Apr 2019

You can’t overestimate the impact of each stabbing. The effects often reverberate for years for the friends, family, wider community and even the perpetrator. Yet, the media interest in the current knife crime epidemic is very much here today, gone tomorrow.

Knife crime has been an issue for far longer than the headlines have shown, in towns and cities all over the world.

You also can’t overestimate the impact of every single young person who decides not to carry a knife. The effects also reverberate indefinitely.

The difference is there is no news story. In my job I get the rare privilege of interviewing young people like Derek, who have been threatened, yet don’t carry.

They are the hope that misses the headlines. And they are the unspoken majority.

My role at XLP — an inner-city youth work charity in London — has given me a first-hand insight into the press’s desire for instant comment after stabbings. If an incident happens overnight, by 8am the request for comment will come to XLP, wanting a comment before lunchtime. This speed is in the very nature of the media, but it happens right when communities are most vulnerable.

The challenge I put to myself, and to all Christians, is: will your prayers outlast the media coverage? When faced with the reality that our prayers could bring transformation to gang culture and knife crime; will we keep persevering in prayer? 

“We are all called to respond...” 

London contains worlds with worlds. For four years, my middle-class friends and I lived in an ex-council house one street away from one of the most notorious estates in London. A house ten doors down was cordoned off after the shooting of Rhyhiem Barton. Another woman was stabbed to death on New Year's Eve two streets away.

I wasn’t drawn to pray until the headlines hit. Physical proximity isn’t enough. However, relational proximity will get you regularly on your knees.

I had to start volunteering with XLP to break out of my bubble. Derek and countless others’ stories revolve around having someone they could trust and who showed them another, positive response to revenge. Volunteers, youth workers and role models in the community are a silent majority who make the biggest impact. If you become one of them, your prayers will follow.

It’s a big ask to volunteer and devote time in this way. If there’s an opportunity to get involved in this way where you are, why not pray, and ask if God is calling you to practically serve in this way.

Not all of us are able to volunteer. But we are all called to respond on our knees in prayer.

How to Pray for the Headlines

Try engaging in prayer in these ways, especially when faced with headlines of stabbings and gang crime:

Confess God’s sovereignty and power.
I constantly find myself needing to do this.confess God’s sovereignty and power. Negative headlines can make me feel hopeless and that God’s powerless. Neither are true.

Pray for everyone involved.
The victim, perpetrator, their friends, family, youth workers, police, witnesses, doctors, the press, I could go on.

Celebrate the unspoken, knife-free majority.
The easy way to do this is through knowing young people. Alternatively -  watch some stories of hope.

Ask that perfect love would cast out fear.
Most young people carry knifes out of fear, not aggression.

Pray for justice.
Pray for trustworthy police and a just justice system. Revenge runs riot because young people believe the State is against them and sometimes, for good reasons.

Praise God for those providing positive alternatives.
Ask for wisdom in how they work and greater resources and support to further their work.

Pray For the Church.
We need Christians and churches to up their game by being open, generous and offering alternatives.

Don’t do it alone.
Why not also get your home group or whole church joining you in prayer?

 

Find out more about the work of XLP and how you can get involved on their website

Ben

Ben Palmer

Ben is a simple human being. He is happy when the teapot is full, there is a ball to chase or a race to run. He has been learning to pray whilst being a part-time monk with the Community of St Anselm. Ben loves inspiring people to put their faith into action, which is why he works for the charity XLP who work to create positive futures for young people.

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