Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Know God; Knowing Justice

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I want to know God.  Paul said the same thing: “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…” Knowing God means sharing God’s pain. In Six Prayers God Always Answers Jennifer Schuchmann and I suggest that God and justice are inseparable.  One cannot be known without the other. Here’s an excerpt.

 

The ancient Hebrew Scriptures often equate God with justice saying “The Lord is known by his acts of Justice” that he “loves justice,” everything he does is just, and that he is a “God of justice.” God cares about justice and he personally experiences the pain of injustices in the world. God is no neutral bystander.

 

The emotion of anger by itself isn’t the problem. The problem comes when we believe we know the just outcome. But we can’t ever know what is the best course of action–what is truly just–because we aren’t God.

 

His nature means that he must also be the administrator of justice. When I sharpen my flashing sword and begin to carry out justice, I will take revenge on my enemies and repay those who reject me.

 

The Jewish philosopher, Abraham Heschel, the standard of justice is not some abstract exemplar, but rather the very voice of God.

Justice is not an ancient custom, a human convention, a value, but a transcendent demand, freighted with divine concern. It is not only a relationship between man and man, it is an act involving God, a divine need . . . It is not one of His ways, but all of His ways. Its validity is not only universal, but also eternal . . . God’s concern for justice grows out of his compassion for man. The prophets do not speak of a divine relationship to an absolute principle or idea, called Justice. They are intoxicated with the awareness of God’s relationship with His people and to all men.

 

Like God, we need to move beyond the anger to feel the pain of injustice.  Gary A. Haugen is president of the International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C. As director of the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda, Haugen’s job was to sort through dead bodies and collect evidence of the crimes that took place in an effort to prosecute the offenders. In his book, Good News About Injustice, he writes:

 

In Rwanda, where I had to bear the burden of digging through the twisted, reeking, remains of horrific mass graves, I tried to imagine, for just a minute, what it must have been like for God to be present at each of the massacre sites as thousands of Tutsi women and children were murdered. Frankly, the idea was impossible to bear. But the thought led me to imagine what it must be like for God to be present, this year, at the rape of all the world’s child prostitutes, at the beatings of all the world’s prisoners of conscience, at the moment the last breath of hope expires from the breast of each of the millions of small children

A prayer for people who have suffered abuse

posted by Mark Herringshaw

“For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression to violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:12-14).

 

God shows preferential treatment.  But the ones God prefers surprise me.  Instead of being impressed with wealth and beauty and intelligence and humor and charm and achievement and power and cleverness and creativity and a winsome heart, as I would be, God instead shows favor and preference to the poor and broken and abused.  If I want to be on God’s side, should I not share his values and side with the broken?  Should I not pray for justice delivered by God to those who need it most?  And if I suffer injustice or abuse myself, shouldn’t I expect God’s special attention?  I should. I will.

 

Here is a prayer for those who have suffered person abuse.

 

“God, you care deeply for broken-hearted people. Those wounded remain close to your heart.  I want to know the pain and the anger you feel about this. I want to share your sorrow.  But empathy is not enough for me. On behalf of those who have suffered abuse, I ask for justice.  I ask you to restore what has been taken from them.  Give them back what has slipped from their hands, their innocence, their hope and their joy. For children who’ve been physically and emotionally abused by those stronger and more powerful – Lord, have mercy and heal them. For women who have suffered under sexual exploitation: Lord, have mercy and heal them. For those who have lost their own power to choose the direction of their lives: Lord, set them free.  For those locked behind bars of oppression: God, give them strength and courage to find a path to liberty. Strengthen liberators who fight for justice. Grow indignation in me and in all your people against these offensive abuses. This is not your will; but you can use any tragedy to bring about your will.  I pray that you will, and ask all these things in the name of Jesus.”

To God, There’s No Such Thing as Petty Injustice

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Can God be bothered with the minor issues in our lives, those small offenses we suffer and sometimes inflict on others?  Does god care about that stuff? In my book Six Prayers God Always Answers I argue that he does.  In my life at least I have discovered God’s activity more in the small incidents than I have in major ones. Here’s another excerpt that the expresses this.

 

As a child, when we saw an injustice, we appealed to a higher authority to fix things:

 “Mom, his piece is bigger than mine.”

“Dad, he got to sit by the window the last time.”

“Mrs. Moseley, he’s kicking me.”

 

Perhaps that explains why we continue to appeal to a higher power when injustice happens to us as adults. When we can’t exact the outcome we feel so passionate about, when we don’t have a way to carry it out, we appeal to a power greater than ourselves in the form of a parent, teacher, boss, neighborhood watch group, court system, federal government, or local Mafia boss. We call on them to administer justice on our behalf. From the time we’re kids, we recognize justice comes from outside sources, so when we aren’t satisfied by the systems of the world, we appeal to those not in the world. We appeal to the Highest Authority of all.

 

For justice’s sake, we pray. “God, it’s just not fair!”

We get that God cares about big injustices in the world, things like the Holocaust, but what we often forget is that God is also concerned about the seemingly petty injustices. In fact, Jesus was angry enough to curse when he thought things weren’t as they should be.

 

He rarely answers our cries for justice with our suggested outcomes. Instead of advancing the scenarios we desire, he reinforces our desire–for fairness, equality, righteousness, and justice. No wonder our passions are so strong! Even when we’re wrong, our sense of righteousness only increases.

 

Could it be that one way he answers our prayers is to take our passion, our anger, our innate sense of fairness, and ask us to turn it over to him? To allow him to execute perfect justice?

Question: Do you experience passionate convictions of justice? Do you see this as a doorway to experiencing God? Let’s talk…

Jesus Delivers the Goods

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Early in his ministry Jesus outlined his mission in a kind of mission statement.  He quoted the Prophet Isaiah promising that his presence and activity would result in certain outcomes.  His influence would have impact.  And the impact would be justice, justice in every arena.  Here is the passage from Luke’s gospel.

 

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:14-21).

 

Do you need Jesus to deliver the goods for you today?  If you have a financial need, Jesus brings good news nephew- provision!  If you’re bound by guilt and shame, Jesus brings pardon.  If you are broken, Jesus brings healing.  If you’re pressed, Jesus rescues!  He’s here to announce that today God shines favor on you.

 

Repeat these words of Jesus for yourself.  Place your own life situations into these promises.  Jesus and his words are alive today just as they were the moment he first spoke them.  Take them to heart and take them back to God as your own.

 

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