I have been thinking a lot about prayer over the last few months.
Our prayers are, naturally, filtered through the way we live our lives, the culture we live in, our country of birth, and so on.
I was chatting to friends about John 10 v 10, “I have come that you might have life and life in all its fullness.”
I began to wonder what that verse would mean to Christians in other countries where they do not share the same levels of freedom that I do.
Where money, jobs, education and opportunities are not as available to them.
Where life is cheap.
Where being a Christian is illegal.
Where being a female is dangerous.
I started to imagine what their prayers might sound like.
How does God balance militaristic, consumerist, prayers with the anguished cries of those in pain or suffering or those living in war torn, impoverished, places the world seems to have forgotten about?
I am glad I’m not God.
I wonder if He ever feels tempted to just block His ears when we pray entitled prayers of privilege, because echoing around Him are the prayers of the homeless, the abused, the marginalised.
But, He never blocks His ears, because He loves us all and is interested in us all equally.
He is involved in our lives, whether we see it or not.
I think, without a doubt, that God longs for us to unblock our own ears so we can respond to a hurting world.
To offer unshielded eyes to see those that others overlook.
To dare to stand up and fight on their behalf.
To offer our prayers to him on behalf of a world that is so off-balance that the top eight richest billionaires own as much combined wealth as “half the human race”.
How do we pray?
How often, when we pray, do we talk to God about the plight of people across the globe? How informed are we?
If we’re honest with ourselves, how much do we really care?
Here are some of the prayers that might be spoken out to God today from our brothers and sisters around the world:
“God, please keep me safe from someone ending my life today. Tomorrow, I could be born and I would survive. I have potential. I am created by you. You have watched me grow in the womb. Please keep me safe.” – Baby, 39 weeks gestation, New York, USA
“God, please keep me safe today from my husband and his family. I cannot take one more day of being beaten, terrified to breathe. I’m terrified to be the next ‘burning bride’ so my husband can marry again for a bigger dowry. I know if he succeeds I will be safe with you, but that he will not be prosecuted. Lord, I pray you will spare my life and help me find a way out of this nightmare. I pray for myself and for my sisters here in this country.” – Teenage bride, Bangladesh
“My fingers hurt and I’m so tired. The tunnels are dark and the rocks are too heavy for me. Children around me keep getting sick and I’m frightened that I will, too, because then I can’t work and I might be beaten or killed. The children can’t see, they cough all the time and their bodies shake. I’ve started shaking too, and I’m afraid. I don’t know how I’ll ever escape this life. God, can you help me?”
– 9 year old boy working in a gold mine (exposed to toxic mercury on a daily basis) Mali, West Africa
“I work as fast as I can but the boss keeps me beating me and telling me to go faster. I am afraid every time I have to climb the tree and use the chainsaw; I have seen too many of my friends die because the chainsaw has slipped. God, I am too young to use a machete. I cut myself so badly yesterday and I am frightened of infection. God, can you help me? All I want is to see my family, eat enough food to stop my belly from aching, and go to school. But, there are so many of us here and I don’t know how we will ever escape. Please send someone to help us…” – 12 year old girl, Cocoa Plantation, Ivory Coast, Western Africa
“God, I don’t want to marry that man. He is older than my father and he scares me. I want to be a child. To laugh and play. I’m not old enough to be a wife or a mother. I wish I had been born a boy.”
– 9 year old girl, Iran
“God, protect me from being assaulted today.” – Woman, Sao Paulo, Brazil
(where a woman is assaulted by a man every 15 seconds)
“God, please make it illegal for my husband to rape me whenever he wants. I am a person – not a possession. I am worthy of love and respect. Please, God, send someone who can make a difference.”
– Wife, Yemen. (There is currently no law that protects a woman from marital rape)
“God, I want to go to school.” – 12 year old girl, Pakistan
“God, my dream is to be a lawyer. Is it okay to dream?” – Female, Saudi Arabia
(girls are not permitted to practise law even though their university scores routinely outstrip men’s)
“Lord, am I worth more than $600 to you?” – 12 year old boy, sold by his parents to become a child soldier, Chad
If I was praying those sorts of prayers to God today, I would hope that people around the world would also be praying them with me.
I would be asking God to burden people’s hearts with what burdens His.
I would be asking God to send people, money, and resources to help us.
I would be asking God to give courage to His people; that they would be brave enough to fight against injustice.
Prayer is a way of fighting. It is a way of declaring war.
It is powerful and effective. It brings about change.
It mobilises people, including the one who is doing the praying.
It affects the future. It brings hope.
It causes heaven to listen and to act.
And prayer is also learning to listen to God and obeying what He says.
Even when it costs.