pathways of prayer
Week 2 - The path of social justice
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, vision.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Some people pray on their knees...but others pray with their hands. Working for peace and justice can be a form of prayer - and prayer and protest are closely linked in the Old Testament. When Jesus cleared the money-changers from the Temple he was praying out of anger, but also making a calculated act of worshipful defiance. Initiatives like the Iona Community and the Faithworks movement have given fresh impetus to this deep stream of Christian spirituality that includes figures like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Many products we buy these days have a phone number to which customers can direct their complaints or queries. If God had a customer service department, what would you like to complain about?
Habakkuk was a prophet who lived in Israel about 600 years before Christ. Beyond that we don't know much about him. But we do know a bit about the world he was living in. It was a time of great violence and destruction. There was a spirit of anarchy. One group of people was constantly at war with another. The law of God was being flouted by everyone. You get the sense that the whole society was unravelling, like a woolly jumper with a thread being pulled, and Habakkuk was afraid. He couldn't see where it would all end.
In lots of ways, the Middle East at the time of Habakkuk seems like a very familiar place. It has so much in common with the world we're living in today. And that's what makes Habakkuk's experience so relevant for those of us who are trying to live as Christians today.
One of the things that was most disturbing for Habakkuk was that it was clear that the winners in all of this were not the good people but the bad. Time after time it seemed like might was on the side of the evil people. Isn't that familiar ? Doesn't it feel, if we're honest, as if God's people are on the losing side time and again ?
There are two "voices" in this reading - Habakkuk and God. Read Habakkuk 1:2-7 and then 3:17-19
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, "Violence!"
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralysed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
God 's reply
5 "Look at the nations and watch-and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honour.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
- How do you picture Habakkuk as he makes this prayer?
- As he looks at the society around him what does Habakkuk complain to God about? As you look at our society can you see any contemporary parallels to the problems in Habakkuk's world?
- Was Habakkuk right to complain?
- Is God aware of Habakkuk's concerns? What does God ask Habakkuk to do (verse 5)? Do you think Habakkuk was surprised by what God said?
- How did Habakkuk decide to respond (v17,18)? What aspects of God's character does Habakkuk rely on?
- What do you think Habakkuk means when he says that God "makes my feet like the feet of a deer" and "enables me to go on the heights" (v19)?
We are bombarded by news on the TV and radio and in the newspapers. Much of it is puzzling or depressing. But we can turn it into prayer. Watch a TV news broadcast, or listen to the radio, and as you do so talk to God about each item. Or you could do the same thing using a copy of today's newspaper to prompt you.
Your prayers may be quite specific - asking God to put right some injustice or bring peace in some area of conflict. Or you may simply want to express your feelings to God like Habakkuk did..."Why God? Where are you? What are you going to do?"
In the week ahead, watch out for any ways in which God has acted in response to the prayers of his people. Like Habakkuk, you may be 'utterly amazed'!
Contact: BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship
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Text © BBC 2007. Web site © CTBI 2007.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
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