Driving down a motorway in the autumnal sunshine, the lamentable twenty-four minute window between getting out of bed and having a coffee is waning—yet my growing bad mood is eclipsed by the excitement of my friend Wim Mauritz. I’m travelling with Wim as he raises awareness about an organisation called Tearfund.
T.E.A.R. Fund stands for The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund, he enlightens me. And it was born in prayer amidst a growing sense that the gospel meant the poor should no longer be poor.
Years later Wim believes now is a significant juncture in the life of this international collective of development expertise and practice. The call to prayer is being sounded again in Tearfund. A deep sense of the need of marrying the prayer that was their womb with these essential efforts to relieve poverty the world over.
Wim has recently returned from two years as a water engineer in the refugee camps of Darfur. He tells me stories as we drive of times when the team's prayers turned unambiguously to pleas for Christ's return. Amidst colossal needs and seemingly immitigable pain they could see no other relief. He knows that development workers not only need prayer support from others, but they also need to become prayerful themselves. As Wim lays this out for me, his tone is so lively that his words all but blossom.
God loves the poor. God who once formed a people from a tribe of enslaved Hebrews, bringing them out of captivity (Exodus). Who in the covenant He made with them revealed Himself to be a God with a distinctive social passion (Deuteronomy 5-7), sending spokespeople to rebuke Israel whenever she swerved (Isaiah 1). Who announced in Mary that the hungry would be filled with good things and in Jesus' own words that good news would be preached to the poor (Luke 1-4). Who in the first days of the Jerusalem church led the disciples to share all things and so bring new grace upon the poor (Acts 2). A God who in Paul's communities mobilised a collection for those suffering under bitter famine in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8), and in John of Patmos issues a searing critique of the economic sufficiency and mastery of the Roman world (Revelation 18).
We cannot shirk for a second the effort to understand and respond to the complexness of the economic and historical factors that land us in today’s tragedy of global poverty. Even so, a deep appreciation of these complexities, whilst bringing us to an awareness of what can be done, also serve to show how little we can do, how mysterious the balances remain to us. But we have hope. When we pray, God will change things for the poor. This week Tearfund are calling us to join in that prayer for poverty across the globe.
In 2007 we celebrated William Wilberforce and the bicentennial of slavery's demise. What perhaps hasn't been much appreciated is the intriguing fact that despite the valiance of Wilberforce and friends, by the time the slave trade was abolished, it had already ceased to become truly profitable for the nations involved. What mysterious balance shifted, before Wilberforce was raised-up?
Maybe, just maybe, the prayers of the Moravian community to which he had become attached, and who started a prayer meeting that lasted a hundred-years, had something to do with it.
Could we not take part in some similar shift? Some of today's issues we perceive and discern whilst others will only emerge in hindsight. But today, we can pray, to the Father who gives the Spirit that prays even when we are worldless. Mountains will bow down to these prayers. From them there might also be born not only mission and justice, but also a curious and promising crossbreed of what Wim likes to call God's integral mission.
Holy and awesome is your name.
Your Kingdom come and your will be done on this broken earth,
As it is in the Heavens.
Have mercy on the millions of families oppressed by
Poor living conditions
Or the destruction of their environment
Forgive us Father for not considering how our choices affect them.
Move our hearts, enlighten our minds and stir our spirits to pray.
Help us to:
And walk humbly with you.
Motivate us to become the answer to the prayers on our lips.
In You is the power,
With You there can be change,
Through us make it happen,
Prayer written by Pete Greig for the Global Poverty Prayer Week