A Global Call to 24-7 Prayer: A day-and-night cry for justice? Why? What is the need? And why us?
A report compiled by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in 2000 states that more than one out of five women (22 percent) are victims of physical violence from an intimate partner in the US; in Turkey, that figure is 58 percent; in Kenya, 42 percent; in Canada, 29 percent; in Mexico, 27 percent. Worldwide, domestic violence is the leading cause of death among girls and women ages fourteen to 44. The United Nations Statistics Division has indicated that, due to abortion based on gender - specifically because the foetus was female - has led to millions (as many as 50,000,000) of "missing" girls from India and China, two cultures where males are preferred due to social and economic structures that devalue females. Globally the number one reason for abortion is gender - that the baby is a girl.
Abuse and violence against females in the 21st century is just one of the countless issues we face in the world today. And one of the powerful reasons to pray, to cry out night and day, to the God-of-Justice, on behalf of the oppressed.
Let's look to the parable told by Jesus in Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow to understand Jesus' heart for justice, for persistent intercession, for the vulnerable, for women.
The parable told by Jesus of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 is a passage about the struggle by the powerless for justice (18:2-3). Jesus' selection of a widow, a vulnerable woman, as the protagonist in the parable (18:1,3) flies in the face of oppression of females in our world and fuels our imagination of what can be - and this vision requires nothing less than relentless perseverance until justice is meted out (18:3,7).
The Struggle of the Powerless for Justice
"In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'"
Luke 18: 2-3
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable of a widow in need of justice, but the judge arbitrating her case was unjust. In Jesus' day legal cases were always a matter of a judge deciding to vindicate one party or the other. Such judges were usually appointed by Herod or the Romans and were notorious in their corrupt practices, particularly the expectation of bribes. The widow is without resources of any kind and has no hope of ever extracting justice from such a judge. This woman is a symbol of all who are poor and defenceless in the face of injustice.
This widow is virtually powerless in that she has no status compared to the judge and relative to others who would plead with him. Widows such as Ruth, Tamar and Anna join the woman in Luke 18 as women of action and persistence who are a vital part of the biblical story challenging assumptions of widows as poor and helpless and demonstrating assertiveness in their willingness to take critical action for justice and salvation.
This paradox of strength and weakness is intrinsic to the Kingdom of God and manifest in the essential nature of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of heaven, like a woman with yeast (Luke 13:20-21) comes not in power and glory but in hiddenness and insistence.
The Image of God - as Judge or Vulnerable Widow?
"Finally [the judge] said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!'" Luke 18: 4-5
Here is an unexpected twist in the parable. That God would be relentlessly pursuing justice is not a new image of the divine. But that God is more akin to a victimized widow than a powerful judge is startling. She embodies godly power in the midst of apparent powerlessness. Followers of Jesus are invited to take up the same stance: to draw on the power of weakness to overcome death-dealing powers" through intercession.
We identify with the widow persistently challenging injustice, injustice meaning anything out of line with the perfect will of God. "Injustice is sin, systems, powers and authorities that damage the world. Injustice is greed, desire and harmful practices and beliefs that diminish people and society... Social justice is about putting our whole lives behind the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and partnering with him in redeeming the whole world".
And so we thank God for his call to The Salvation Army. A call for nothing less than Salvationists on our knees before the One who alone can bring about a restoration of justice in the earth, even a holiness revival - A Global Call to 24-7 Prayer: A day-and-night cry for justice.
This Call is issued from the Office of the General of The Salvation Army - General Shaw Clifton - calling the Army around the world to non-stop prayer, to commence 1 January 2011. This is an open-ended call - inviting believers to focus our prayers globally on justice.
You are invited to join in the day and night cry for justice, with the same spirit of persevering prayer honoured by Jesus in Luke 18:1-7. Sign up at www.SAGlobal247.org where monthly prayer topics and information will also be available.
There is a spiritual readiness among us for this call. Additionally, the great need of the times in which we live and serve urges us onward in day and night prayer.
In Luke 18:8 Jesus concludes his teaching with the question, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Jesus is looking for evidence of faith on the earth upon his return, in his chosen ones crying out to him day and night. May The Salvation Army be part of the faith that he finds.
As we look to the future with vision infused by faith - let's dream God's dreams, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who alone can do more than we can ask or imagine,
Looking Ahead By Faith
Where could this Global Call to 24-7 Prayer lead? How might the world be different as a result?
- Tens of thousands of believers in every nation will be praying - intentionally and intensively!
- Prayer Rooms will be actively utilized by every age group, by friends, soldiers, strangers, visitors, those coming to us in need, and by leaders.
- Prayer Rooms will be established as a permanent part of life in thousands of Salvation Army centres around the world.
- Countless stories of people coming to know the love of Christ, testimonies of salvation, stories of healings --- physical, emotional, spiritual - and of reconciliation, and deliverance, will be on our lips.
- Flowing out of the Prayer Rooms will be fresh and creative ministries to the poor, the lost, the broken hearted, children and youth at risk, oppressed and exploited women, hopeless men.
- There will be a significant increase in reaching people for Jesus Christ. The many individuals and families who come through our doors will encounter refreshed and revitalized Salvationists, hearts enflamed with the love of God through communion with Him in prayer, and hearts tenderized to the needs of those around them.
- Every Salvationist will be involved in intentionally growing in Christ through eager participation in Bibles Studies, prayer groups, small group accountability, and spiritual formation partnerships - to establish in discipleship what has been ignited, strengthened and refreshed in the Prayer Room.
- The Salvation Army will be united as an Army on its knees, crying out to God, night and day, for justice on behalf of the vulnerable, the oppressed and exploited.
Colonel Janet Munn