What to Pray in difficult times by Pastor Dave
‘Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven (if you retain the sins of any they are retained).”’
John 20: 21-23
I do not normally write a blog at the weekend but with many I am troubled, saddened and distressed at the public unrest we see in the States. I have been motivated (and encouraged by others) to write. What is the Church’s role; how do we pray? I believe informed, specific, persistent and unified prayer touches God’s heart (Matthew 7: 7-11), and where we have uncertainty the Holy Spirit prays for us in line with God’s will (Romans 8: 26-27). With this in mind I humbly submit the below for your contemplation and prayer. We all come from different perspectives and backgrounds so in offering matters for prayer let me explain mine:
In 1981, the year I joined the Police Service, the UK experienced riots and pubic unrest across the country (often called Race Riots). It was a very difficult time. As dust settled and inquiries were completed causal factors were identified. Unsurprisingly poverty, unemployment, housing, health, institutional racism, policing methods, crime, organized crime, Government failings (local and national), education and communication were among some of the main factors; a complex situation. It showed that matters weren’t always as they seemed and the need to understand the full picture was tantamount to ensure solutions. After much work and consultation the Government introduced the Crime and Disorder Act. This directed the main Public Sector organisations to work together in partnership to reduce crime and disorder. These parties (Local Government, Health, Social Service, Police, Education and Criminal Justice Agencies) also and crucially worked together with the voluntary sector, organisations such as community groups, Victim Support and Churches. I was appointed the Force Partnerships Officer and set up this partnership for our region. It transformed our work and more importantly the outcomes. We set up at three levels, neighbourhood, community and regional, we shared budgets and agreed goals WITH the communities. It transformed policing to a problem solving, local approach. Communication was enhanced and ‘community intelligence’ and ‘neighbourhood tension indicators’ were developed. The outcomes weren’t perfect and never will be, but there was a vast improvement.
I share the above to validate my offerings for informed prayer below. I also share that at another time I was appointed Race Relations Coordinator and worked with the region’s communities to identify ways to encourage recruitment, retention and career progression within the Criminal Justice Agencies. I briefed the relevant Parliamentary body on the outcomes and recommendations. Most findings were as you would expect but some were surprising; commonly held views on institutional racism and poor relations were not always held within the communities themselves. For example housing was a key issue not policing, understanding street population not just actual population was important, previous treatment of past generations shaped opinion not current attitudes and some communities simply did not want to work within the Agencies because their culture deemed the roles inappropriate.
Previous experience and history helps us to understand ways to respond today and how to pray. I would therefore encourage the following for prayer:
Jesus teaches, and history shows us, that an essential element of any resolution needs to be forgiveness. This prevents bitterness, brings about healing and enables a new beginning. Unforgiveness begets unforgiveness which damages hope. The Lord offers peace and calls us to be ‘peacemakers’ whereby people’s hearts can be changed. May we be active in prayer as a Church and as we pray through the above may we always pray for forgiveness and peace
Please note that in the above I summarise very complex matters; there is much not written. The prayer suggestions are ‘big picture’ prayers; we need to pray very much for the individual – the hurt, isolated, distressed, those in poverty, ill health, those in key roles and so on. Please also note that I speak from an ex-policeman’s and Priest’s perspective – I have been in these situations and processes and have worked with agencies and communities, perpetrators and victims; it is always good to get another person’s view and opinion. I would encourage you to think for yourself and pray in line with God’s Word. We sometimes hear confident or loud (even aggressive) viewpoints expressed and can tend to accept them as factual; sometimes they are not, so let us listen deeply, carefully and lovingly so as to discern God’s truth through the wisdom of His Holy Spirit.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.