Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
Hebrews 13:3 NLT
I was recently in my church small group when someone shared a story about a man in his 70s who, after years of keen Christian service, had been found guilty of a crime and imprisoned. This caused some consternation. I said that if I had acted out some of the thoughts that had passed through my mind during my life, I too would have broken the law and had to face the consequences.
Soon after I watched a Channel 4 news report from Libya showing the horrific torture and humiliation of refugees affected by the EU’s policy of aiding Libyan authorities to intercept migrants and return them to detention in Libya. The UN’s human rights chief accused European countries of ignoring warnings over the deal. UN monitors said they found sexual violence, torture and killings were widespread in Libyan detention centres.
Prisoners come in many forms, some paying for crimes committed, others themselves the victims of crime. My reaction is a rising sense of helplessness, with a tinge of guilt that my taxes support policies that can prove inhumane, far removed from the love and kindness commanded by Jesus. My response is to pray. Some say that we are to become the answer to our own prayer. I’m uneasy now with that statement. For many years, I campaigned and worked for the marginalised. My actions were prolific. I prayed, but from duty more than conviction. It’s taken years for me to recognise that all the action in the world, while alleviating some suffering somewhere, will not make up for humanity’s deficit. Only Jesus achieves that.
Some will see this as a dereliction of my human responsibility to change the world; however, my conviction is in the truth of God’s word that prayer is the source of change. I am schooled in the benefits of direct action, yet direct access to the creator is now where I am learning to invest my efforts.
What evil in our world today provokes you to prayer?
Creator of the universe, may “your kingdom come [and], your will be done” (Matthew 6:10, NIV) in me and in your world today. Bless and protect those who work for peace and against evil.