A Troubling Week for the World—Specific things to pray (and work) for from January 17-23

Listening version

I once knew someone who would say, “Things are in a state.” Well my friends, that is definitely true in these ides of January 2021.

Followers of Jesus believe that prayer works. The Bible tells us so, including Jesus. This is what Oswald Chambers was getting at when he wrote, “Prayer is not preparation for the work; it is the work.” In other words, it makes an impact on things that actually happen.

This goes hand in hand, of course, with living differently as a result of our prayers—with trying to advance God’s good causes—as Chambers himself would have argued. In this spirit, the martyred Thomas More said: “The things, good Lord, that we pray for, give us the grace to labour for.”

1. The American Inauguration

The inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States occurs on January 20th. I’ve heard rumblings of armed protests. Considering what happened on Capitol Hill, the wise should be diligent.

I realize that I don’t live in America. But let’s be honest: the things that happen south of the border have an impact all around the world, including here in the great (if not much smaller) white north.

In my experience, some Canadians tend to think that their country is the best thing since sliced bread; this can soak some of our attitudes in self-righteousness. But American history is very different than ours, and the issues are often very different. I just think that humility is helpful.

Regardless of your political views, a peaceful transition can be in our prayers.

2. Your enemies

We live in a world of increasing polarity. This is made worse by the online “echo chambers.”

An echo chamber is when you only see or hear things that reinforce what you already think, like an echo. On your device if you click on a story about a certain topic, or from a certain political or philosophical point-of-view, your device (depending on your settings) will feed you more stories from those same people and sources. This also occurs on Facebook.

I remember someone saying how they couldn’t believe why more people didn’t know about a certain perspective on an issue. “This information is everywhere!” they said. But it wasn’t. They were being fed information from people, websites and news outlets that simply re-enforced their ideas and which made them think that everyone else was seeing the same thing (which they weren’t).

The echo chamber polarizes, and it heightens a simplistic tendency to see people in two camps: allies or enemies. That’s why we need to (a) be more deliberate about our sources of news and information (in my view, never has it been so hard to know what in the world is going on), and (b) pray for our enemies.

3. Your governments

The post-modern mindset is often already anti-authority. As a result, many people carried with them a quiet distrust of the government—regardless of the party or policies—even before the pandemic.

In Romans 13, Paul talks about being “subject” to governing authorities, as unpleasant as that idea might be for modern people, including many followers of Jesus. But God can and does use governments of various persuasions for justice and order. The only warrant for not being subject to governing authorities is when they clearly go against God’s will (see Acts 5:29).

It’s easy to slander and stereotype the government. We may not always agree with them, and we may advocate for different policies, but I think we should pray for our governments to have wisdom and discernment, and to advance justice and order. And I think we should talk and live in a way that reflects this hope.

4. Wellness in a lockdown

Here in Ontario we are in a second lockdown. Although there are fewer specific restrictions than in March/April 2020, I would argue that this one is, for many people, harder.

The initial cooperative enthusiasm is gone, people are frayed, those who are in the habit of helping others are themselves in need of help, oh—and its January. [Click here for problems to do with that.] Checking in on friends, family members and neighbours (in a safe way) is a good idea.

[Click here to read ‘How to calm and relax your mind‘]

5. The forgotten tragedies

One of the evils of this time (and yes, I mean evils) is that a pandemic and political fireworks distract us from other significant and global issues which are massive, and which continue to be problems.

Just because we don’t hear about new and increasing horrors related to poverty, human trafficking, rising mental illness, the persecution of faith communities, or violence in Uganda, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Imagine what the news would be like if we started 2021 with no pandemic or political chaos. Do you think there would be less than a full hour’s worth of news? Of course not. In some ways we are living in a time of eclipse. We are staring at (and can’t look away from) an accident on the highway while a world around us cries out in pain.

Prayer list:

1. The American Inauguration
2. Your enemies
3. Your governments
4. Wellness in a lockdown
5. The forgotten tragedies  

And then this…

6. The return

A lot of people—including myself—pray for Jesus’ return. The Bible teaches that Jesus will one day return as Judge and Saviour, and usher in what is called the new heavens and the new earth. The world as we currently know it will “pass away” and be remade into this new and glorious creation. It will be ah-mazing.

The New Testament specifies that we are already in the “last days.” The question many people are wondering, however, is whether or not we are toward the end of the last days. It’s no wonder. Various biblical passages talk about events leading up to it: wars, rumours of war, distress, famines, earthquakes, false prophets, and pestilences. Have any of those boxes not been checked? Ultimately, we don’t know when it will happen. But Jesus says it will. It’s just that no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36).

But why the delay? 2 Peter 3:9 gives the answer: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise [about returning], as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

This should motivate us to know and trust Jesus as Lord, to share his good news with others, to live “holy and godly lives” as we wait (2 Peter 3:12), and live in eager expectation. God is in fact making all things new. And that, my friends, has a way of lifting the chin; the horizon is beyond good.

The early church prayed this short Aramaic prayer: Marana Tha. It means, “Our Lord, come!” May it be so. Every tear will be gone, wrongs will be made right, and the love of God will reign.

Are there other things to pray and work for? Definitely.

But this may be a specifically troubling week. No matter the fracas in a frazzled world, we stride forward as a people of grace and gratitude, and of persistence and prayer.


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