All posts tagged “prayer”

LoveZimDay

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Today is loveZim day. Zim, of course, stands for Zimbabwe and the purpose of this day is to unite as the body of Christ, across denominational and cultural lines, and lift this nation up in prayer.

It is a desperate nation, where people are crying out to know something of justice and peace amidst a world of corruption. And, so it seems, as its people long for this, something is beginning to happen. There are glimmers in stories coming out of Zimbabwe. We see glimmers of this in the lives of those we meet in Masi.

It seems that every person we meet from Zimbabwe is hungry for something more in life. Not just physical needs and things such as that — they are important but it’s not the type of hunger we see most often. They are hungry for real and lasting change in their own lives and those around them. It’s led us to firmly believe that God is doing something in their nation.

In America right now it’s pretty commonplace to live in fear — we felt this in many of the areas we visited. It almost seems grossly fashionable. But we don’t really know what it’s like to live in terror day in and day out. Our friends from Zimbabwe, on the other hand, do. To give a quick snapshot of recent Zimbabwean history-

  • Zimbabwe no longer has an official currency. Inflation ran rampant due to failed economic policy. At it’s height, before the dissolution of the currency, people would have to take a wheelbarrow full of money to the store to buy a small bag of flour or sugar. My wife and I have a 10,000,000,000 Zim note that, during this time, was a small piece of that wheelbarrow.

  • The last “election” was in 2008. After the opposition party won the majority of the parliamentary seats, the president, Robert Mugabe, initiated a campaign entitled CIBD — Coercion—Intimidation—Beating—Displacement — run by a ruthless military which delivered what the campaign promised. Widespread, and brutal, violence caused the opposition party to pull out.

  • Many of the economic problems can be traced to Mugabe’s “land reformation” programs, whereby he seizes (often violently) commercial farming land. Outwardly, it’s portrayed as an attempt to put land back into the hands of the poor of Zimbabwe. In reality it’s been shown that the land is primarily given to the elite of Zimbabwe.

So today is a day to come together and lift this nation up. The church of Zimbabwe is joining hearts and hands today to do this and we should as well, with them.

Specific Requests

  • One side effect of current life in Zimbabwe is that many people have no other choice than seek asylum elsewhere. The best option from those that can’t afford plane tickets off of the continent is South Africa. Many of our friends in Masi come here because of this. The government of South Africa has generally been gracious in welcoming them in, regardless of status (many come illegally due to grave conditions at home and the impossibility of getting official papers). The government here though, from what we are hearing, are starting to revamp their asylum position. Everyone with asylum papers are being given a (sometimes very) brief window of time — generally two weeks to three months — to get official papers in order to apply for work permits. Official papers (a passport and Zimbabwean national ID) are things that many have no access to. Pray for grace with officials locally. Pray for safety if forced to return to Zimbabwe. Election season is coming up and gross violence is likely to return. Pray that our friends especially would be light where ever God takes them, whether that’s remaining here in Masi or going back to their home in Zim.

  • Pray for the nation of Zimbabwe, that hearts would change. Pray that God would convict of the violence and coercion and that the will of the people would be heard in upcoming elections, free from manipulative and propaganda filled voices.

  • Pray that a might move of the Kingdom of God would occur in Zimbabwe. Pray as Jesus does in the Lord’s Prayer: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

CPx: Discovery Bible Study pt iv

There are a couple of things worth discussing at this juncture. The first is that it works. Our tendency in western cultures is to want to teach (or perhaps worse: preach at) people when in reality God wants to work in their hearts in a way that is free of our own junk. Allowing people to discover the Word of God on their own opens them to God in ways I honestly haven’t seen before. That doesn’t mean there is no need for evangelism — more often than not Bible studies start up from a good old fashioned telling of the Gospel (we like to fashion it as “God’s Story”) — but it’s never the endpoint of discipleship. It also doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some good old fashioned preachin’ and teachin’ — we’ve had to do some of that too — but generally that’s something left for those that already believe. What it does mean is trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and to from this exercise restraint in our natural tendencies. A woman we met with just today told us how much she appreciated being able to discover God’s Word — how life-giving that was to her. She described it as this well of God’s love that bubbles up within her, and how, because of this well, when she comes to passages that talk about not stealing and not prostituting, it’s not something hard to comply with because the Holy Spirit is already working within her. And that’s what we are praying for all of the people. And that is what we are beginning to see, particularly with those truly hungry to know Christ.

The second thing I thought worth highlighting is that sometimes are tendency is to over-spiritualize things. This is often decidedly not helpful. The last DBS post I did was about prayer time and I think our tendency to over-spiritualize really comes out in it. As I (hopefully) mentioned, it’s designed to be a low impact prayer time that gets even those people not yet comfortable with the idea of talking with God involved. They don’t even have to pray — it starts simply with talking about what we are thankful for and talking about the needs in our life. The actual act of praying can come later, as people are drawn closer to God through the studying His Word. And for those that have little to know exposure to “church” and the like, this is what happens. There are many people though that are or have been involved in heavily religious cultures and they know Christianese as well as most Americans. And you ask what they are thankful for and its a wordy, religious-y response that doesn’t mean a whole lot. And you ask about their greatest need and it’s similar — wordy, religious-y and devoid of much meaning. And what’s worse, because we are doing Bible studies so often we facilitators and evangelists find ourselves doing the same thing. Unfortunately it does little to build community — we can’t be the answer to anyone’s prayer if the prayer is somewhat impossible to understand in the first place. It also can be discouraging for times of praise — how do you praise that which you can only barely abstractly describe with words that, when it comes down to it, tend to be rather vacuous?

Thinking on that convicted me of my own “taking the easy way out”. I started thinking of this particularly issue about a month ago and because of it, have been trying to tangibly express my thanksgiving to God — be it for the weather, something specific He has done in my life or the lives of those I know, or some particular trait of His that is especially moving on a given day. And for the needs I have, I’ve been trying to take serious stock at where my heart is at any given time and being honest for those needs. And I can’t say specifically how it’s impacted any of the Bible studies but honestly I believe a realness, and honesty, draws people closer together. Being honest narrows the distance between us and them (if we are real with them, they become us, after all). It’s something I want the friends we are making to be able to do in their communities and something I’d recommend for everyone doing this and similar forms of outreach.

CPx: Discovery Bible Study pt iii

We always start Discovery Bible Studies with prayer time (or at least a time designated for prayer-like activities). For one thing, it helps focus peoples attentions around Jesus (if they are praying) and opens their hearts to the community (if they are just speaking thanksgivings and needs). Also, a big part of what a Discover Bible Study is designed to do is seamlessly transform from a simple study to a simple church as people find themselves following Jesus, and if you want the DNA of prayer built into the church community, it’s necessary to start with it from the very beginning (even if very little “prayer” is happening).

The obvious question is how do you build this DNA into the community from day 1, especially if you are dealing with a group of people that have no concept of Jesus and prayer and talking to God? Forcing prayer is one option. It’s an option I’ve tried in fact but it doesn’t really produce fruit that is lasting — people are shy and nervous and unsure about talking to someone or something that they don’t even know.

So what’s a good way to do this? Just as in studying the Bible it’s best to have simple steps so that it is easily reproduced. There are three that we do to create an atmosphere of prayer within the DBS.

  1. Share what you are thankful for. We start by getting everyone into an attitude of thanksgiving. Even if life is as hard as it could possibly be, everyone generally has something that they can give thanks for — be it friends and family, the beautiful, life or some unexpected blessing. By sharing these we actively engage in putting our hearts in a mode of giving thanks and, when the group is praying, we have a pool of items to praise God for.

  2. Share what your greatest need is. Whereas thanksgiving is probably the best place to start, intercession is also a needed component of prayer. Building in a reliance on God and recognition that He is the source of all that we are early on sets a very good precedent. It also gives God an opportunity to radically show up and show Himself as real (in line with 1 Corinthians 2:4) through answered prayer. For example, I had the honor of baptizing a husband and wife on Easter that we have been doing a DBS with for about 2 months. On our first meeting, the wife had us pray during this time for her baby who was covered some scaly skin disease that did not look pleasant at all; God showed up and instantly started healing the child (by the next day the scaly skin was normal again). And that opened them up to a more in depth conversation about Jesus that led to them making the decisions that they have made.

  3. Ask if anyone present can meet any of the needs expressed. God often moves miraculously; often too He uses us to be the answer to other peoples prayers. And if community is a value, we should be actively seeking to meet those needs expressed. As an example, someone we met in a DBS expressed the need of not knowing how to manage money. Because of that, we volunteered to spend some extended time with him sharing tip and tricks to manage your money (basically a modified envelope method) which he found really empowering and helpful.

Even if everyone isn’t praying on the first DBS, you as participant or facilitator can. If no one can meet the needs expressed, you can offer to lift those people up. After the fact you can meet with people to pray for them. As people grow closer to God and want to pray you are there to teach them and help see them grow in this (as well as Bible study).

Hopefully this gives a quick rundown on prayer and how it is incorporated into DBSs.

Khayelitsha

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Tomorrow (Saturday) Juli and I head into Khayelitsha for the first time. We’ve driven by it but weren’t able to venture in at the time. For those that might not know, Khayelitsha is South Africa’s largest township and is home to more than 2.1 million people (which is an estimate — a large portion of the township is informal settlements).

It’s a place desperately in need of the transformative power of the Gospel. Approximately 60% of the population is estimated to be unemployed. There are estimated to be more than 14,000 orphans living here. Approximately 32% of the population is suspected to be HIV+ and 16 out of every 1000 infected with TB. It also has one of the highest crime rates in the South Africa and the world. It’s murder rate has been reported as the highest in the nation (in the past it’s been commonplace to hear of 10+ in a given weekend) and it’s estimated that one in every two or three women have been raped (and approximately half of those under the age of 13). If all of this doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will.

Anyways — the urban sprawl (pictured) got to us on our first drive by and we’ve been praying about seeing it first hand and the opportunity has finally come. We will be going with a YWAM ministry called “Justice [ACTS].” It’s mission is to see an end to human trafficking, something that has unfortunately escalated here in South Africa as the World Cup approaches.
This time, we were just invited to tag along. We see it as a time to potentially begin taking steps into some of the God-bred dreams in our hearts. Pray that God opens our eyes and hearts to see the people of Khayelitsha as he sees them. And pray that a move of Jesus sweeps through that place and forever changes it (as we know it can be changed).

The Other Journal at Mars Hill Graduate School :: “With Sighs Too Deep for Words”: On Praying With the Victims in Haiti by Nathan R. Kerr

At the heart of all Christian prayer is the cry “Thy kingdom come!” It is with this cry that we move out into the action that speaks to God by waiting upon the free coming of God. It is with this cry that we speak to and for the coming again of Christ—that decisive action of God by which the powers and principalities of this world are to be subverted and creation is to be opened anew to its revolutionary transformation into new life. In prayer, we come to participate in this revolutionary transformation. Thus, Barth says, the action to which Christians are called by Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit is a specific kind of revolt.5 Specifically, the Christian prays in “revolt against all the oppression and suppression of humans by the lordship of the lordless powers,” against those powers that have gained their lordship by virtue of their refusal of humanity’s and creation’s relationship to God.6 At the same time, the Christian prayer of revolt is rooted in an equally specific kind of hope. The Christian acts against the lordship of the lordless powers not so as to win her own freedom from their rule (as if by some equally autonomous power), but rather in the recognition that she has been implicated in a struggle that refuses their rule as false and illusory, in recognition that she has already been liberated from their rule in the original revolution of Christ’s cross and resurrection.7 For Christians to cry, “Thy kingdom come!” in revolt against the lordless powers is to act “in the sphere of freedom” from the powers which “is already given to them here and now on this side of the fulfillment of the prayer.”89 Prayer, Barth is saying, should make revolutionaries of us all. Indeed, what kind of an invocation of God’s kingdom would it be if it did not testify through specific ways of working and living and loving to the path through and out from under the lordless powers—cosmic, political, and religious alike—that enslave the powerless poor by presuming to deny the resurrection of the crucified?

And yet, we must be clear: such prayer, such living and working and loving, is born out of, not apart from, the crucible of lived solidarity with those victims who have been rendered powerless by these lordless powers. Whatever else we might say about the geological causes and the religious significance of the January 12 earthquake, surely we must resist any interpretation of this event—either as mere cosmic chance or as the outworking of some inscrutable divine will—that refuses ways of living and working with the Haitian that affirm again the goodness of creation. It may be groaning in enslavement to powers hostile to God, but creation is nevertheless there to be received anew as gift and sign of God’s coming new creation. Whatever else we might say about the impoverished working conditions, crippled health-care system, and gross economic oppression of the Haitian people that this tragic event has made all the more apparent, surely we must resist any benevolent posturing that presumes to offer economic and medical aid while leaving these exploitative structures in place. Whatever else we might say about the covert political alliances that have suppressed Haitian democracy, limited Haitian immigration to the United States, and curtailed Haitian economic “growth” for the sake of the increased wealth of the Western international superpowers, surely we must resist any sloganeering cries for equal rights and economic development that leave unchallenged the hegemonic politics of the West whose ideology creates the very space for such sloganeering.

If this is what solidarity with the oppressed and victimized Haitian people calls us to resist, to revolt against, what then, one might ask, are those ways of living and working and loving that constitute the “obedient human action” of one who prays, “Thy kingdom come”? To begin with, we shall have to be obedient to the command of God to go—to be with these people, indeed, to live with these people and to have these people live with us (whether permanently or for a time). We must be willing to work with these people and to love these concretely broken bodies (the immense significance of the word concrete here does not escape me) and this specific space of broken earth. And as we go, we shall have to ask how to receive again the goodness of creation by rediscovering a distinctively liturgical agrarianism for a people whose population is 75 percent rural. As we go, we shall have to ask what kinds of economic and business ventures promote healthy and faithful city dwelling in the midst of Haiti’s now-impoverished urban centers. As we go, we shall have to ask what kinds of living and loving and working together will continue to feed and clothe the illegal Haitian immigrants when, in eighteen months, their temporary asylums have expired.

I love this essay on Haiti and prayer. This excerpt is only a small piece. If you have time — it’s worth reading in its entirety.

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