Prayer: freedom

Lord, teach us how to pray and help us to pray now.

It feels pointless standing here asking you to help to help when we stand on the precipice in Gaza, with one million people trapped and desperate in Rafah, waiting for the tanks to smash their city and their bodies. What good does it do praying to you? But what else can we do? We ask for peace, for acts of courage that break cycles of violence. We pray for freedom for the people of Israel and Palestine to live without violence. As humanity groans with agony at what is happening, make us the firstfruits of heaven, people who have caught on to the idea of living at peace with our enemies, despite the cost.

It’s hard even to think about the horrors happening as the fighting becomes ethnic cleansing in Sudan. We pray for protection for ordinary people trying to escape. We ask for effective intervention from the African Union or the UN, or whatever will work. We pray for freedom from the hatred driving these attacks, disarming it with courageous love. Teach us freedom from the same kinds of hatred in ourselves. Let heaven break through in us: let our friendships, our encounters with people around us, our social media posts, be places where we are learning to love people who are different, and people we disagree with.

We pray for everyone who is in prison in the UK, after the devastating report about conditions at Wandsworth. We pray for the right funding and leadership to protect people from sewage overflows, vermin, illegal drugs and lack of medical attention. We lift to you our friends and family members who are in prison: protect them and help them. Give us vision as a country of a justice system that we can be proud of, that reflects your character by valuing each person as a precious creation and carrier of your image. Give our prisoners freedom from torturous conditions that makes space for healing and reflection, and prepares them to make use of the new freedom they will receive when they are released.

We pray for ourselves: may we find freedom to be these precious creations, carrying your image. Even as the weight of all the suffering we have prayed about presses on us, give us freedom from expecting to fix the world: that’s on you. Even as we become more aware of the sin in ourselves and others that hurts and limits us, give us freedom from sin, and freedom to love other people and ourselves. Even as worries about exams or money or success or loneliness risk pulling us under, give us freedom to be generous and brave, taking chances, that were not necessarily offered, to give, to speak, to try an experiment in love.

Set us free Lord: as a world, as a people, as your children.


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