• The beauty of repentant prayer

    Posted by Rebekah

    20 February, 2012

    “I used to spend a lot of energy asking God questions. Why must poverty persist in a rich country like the USA? Why does one continent, Africa, absorb like a sponge so many of the world’s disasters? When will ‘peace on earth’ ever arrive? Ultimately, I came to see these questions as God’s interrogations of us. Jesus made clear God’s will for the planet – what part am I playing to help fulfil that will?”
    – Philip Yancey, ‘Prayer - Does it Make Any Difference?'

    I often catch myself thinking about poverty as something outside of myself; something disconnected from the real world in which I live, day to day. It is hard to fathom that while I sit at my kitchen table each morning eating my muesli and yoghurt, starvation is a reality for a large majority of our fellow humanity. It’s so easy to maintain this disconnection and not stop to consider that I may somehow, in some way, actually be responsible for the poverty in our world. 

    Poverty is often real enough to us that we can rant about the negative effects that capitalism has on the economic systems of developing countries or the lack of compassion that governments show in refusing to give higher percentages of their gross national income to overseas aid.

    Yet I find that I often draw just short of implicating myself in any this. When I echo the questions of Yancey, mentioned above, do I ever ask what part I am playing to fulfil God’s will? Do I ever take it a step further and ask what part I might be playing to hinder that will?

    When it comes to issues of poverty and injustice, I find the sins I am most guilty of are those of omission; those things that I know I ought to do, and yet choose not to. Inaction is really an action – it is a choice. As it relates to what God requires of us, inaction where action is required is a sin (James 4:17). 

    As discussed in our previous blog in the Pray Act series, God is not subtle in his commands to his people about our responsibility to the poor. If I am to act justly on behalf of the poor, I must first have a changed attitude, which comes from a changed heart and mind. As someone who loves and serves the God and Creator of the universe this means my attitude ought to be the same as that of Christ Jesus. This requires repentance; repentance from my self-centred attitude, which seeks to justify my greed and complacency towards poverty; and this begins with prayer. It begins with humbling myself, and acknowledging my failure to respond to God’s call to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the wanderer (Isaiah 58). 

    God does not require of us acts of religious charity, but hearts that are set on Him and on following the commands and the example of our loving Father by doing justice and loving kindness. Repentant prayer is a beautiful thing, because it begins with sin and guilt but ends with the grace of Jesus and a holiness that is only attainable because of his blood, which covers us. 

    Every day this week I have committed to pray as a part of the Micah Challenge Pray Act Campaign. Will you join with me today in a prayer of repentance, asking God to change our minds, our hearts and our attitudes about poverty? Will you join with Christians around the country in repentance for neglecting the poor and needy whom God loves, and whom he has charged us with responsibility of advocating for? 

    Let’s come to God with humble hearts, repentant for our inaction and complacency towards injustice. Let’s ask Him to make us into a people after His own heart, a people who pour themselves out for those in need, not out of obligation or charity, but out of compassion, knowing that His unceasing response to a repentant heart is mercy and faithfulness. 

    Click here to take action through prayer as part of our Pray Act 8 days of prayer campaign.

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    Bek Newmarch is the 2012 Spiritual Formation and Education Intern for Micah Challenge.