*** This article first appeared in Wellsprings and Wineskins in early 2011, and was also featured here on Lifebrook a bit later. Its message about poverty and the importance of prayer is as vital today as it ever was.
Crippling poverty has been a daily reality for far too many people for as long as history has been recorded. In spite of the great advances in agriculture and other life sciences, for countless people around the globe each day is a struggle for survival, a never-ending search for food and clean drinking water. It is estimated that 25,000 children die each day from starvation and illness directly related to poverty. If we lay claim to the mantle of Christian, we cannot ignore these realities.
Many of us feel there is nothing that we can do to make a dent in the problem of global poverty. We cite lack of money, lack of time, and countless others “lacks” when called upon to take positive steps of Christian love to address chronic poverty, even in our own neighborhoods and cities. I have little doubt that tears flow in the heavenly realms each time we hide behind our “lacks.”
There is one thing that we all can do, however: We can pray. If we truly believe in the effectiveness of prayer, and as followers of Jesus we have plenty of reason to believe, then we surely understand that by praying for those in poverty we can accomplish great things. Further, we can all find the time to offer up intentional intercession on behalf of those in dire need. In his book A Hole in Our Gospel, World Vision director Richard Stearns shares these words, penned by his colleague John Robb:
Wherever in the world there is significant development – people coming to Christ, health improvements, economic opportunities, adoption of kingdom values – it is the direct result of Christians praying.
I strongly believe what Robb is saying. During the years I spent working with AIDS patients, veterans, and the homeless in Dade County, Florida, I personally witnessed the miracles that can be brought about through prayer. The same is true for the five years of front line service in China. Without a strong foundation of prayer, little could have been accomplished.
Intentional intercessory prayer on behalf of those mired in poverty can be done in your private devotion time, or it can be done as a group project. Another way to make this kind of prayer a part of your daily living is to follow the seven steps suggested by Richard Stearns:
When you take your morning shower, pray for families in poor countries who do not have access to clean water, forcing mothers to spend hours collecting inadequate water and causing children suffer and even die from water-related diseases.
When you pack your lunch, or your child’s lunch, pray for the one billion people who are chronically hungry in the world today.
As you commute to your job, pray for the adults around the world who can’t find consistent work to feed their families, or pray for the millions of children forced into harmful or exploitative labor.
When you drop your child off at school, pray for children around the world who cannot get an education because of poverty or discrimination.
As you take a vitamin, pray for the families without adequate health care, leaving them and especially their children vulnerable to preventable diseases.
When you arrive home after work, pray for the children and families who are homeless due to poverty, conflict, or natural disasters.
As you tuck your children into bed, guide them to pray for the millions of children who have lost their parents around the world – especially the fifteen million AIDS orphans around the world, many of whom must survive without guardians.
Stearns suggestions are just that, suggestions. However, if you make a committed and diligent effort to make these prayers a part of your daily round for the next thirty days or so, you may very well have a significant impact on someone in need. Never discount or minimize the power of committed prayer. Time and time again it has been shown to work wonders.
I would also suggest that you pick up a copy of Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel. Spend quality time with this book, slowly imbibing the practical wisdom contained in its pages and the inspiration gleaned from the author’s candid revelations regarding his own journey from corporate president to a front line, leadership role with World Vision. It will be time well spent.
© L.D. Turner 2011/ All Rights Reserved