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Prayer. Mission. Justice.

In the time after Ascension and Pentecost, I always seem to linger in the early chapters of Acts. This year in particular, I’ve been musing around mission and what it means to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8). Mission itself can be loaded word, a little ambiguous perhaps, before we even begin to consider motivations and methods behind our missional endeavours.


My own church community (Discovery Church Dunbar) is part of the 24-7 Prayer network, the tagline for which is ‘A Movement of Prayer, Mission and Justice’. I have always resonated deeply with this and found these three facets of the movement to be standalone concepts, but at the same time they are so intricately woven together.


Where there is mission, then prayer and justice must also be present; where there is prayer that is ‘powerful and effective’ (James 5:16), mission and justice will surely follow; where we see the justice of God being outworked, you can be certain that an individual or small group of committed folks have first been on their knees in prayer, stirred for mission. No matter how the prayer/mission/justice weave works its way out, one thing needs to be clear, that Jesus is at the centre.


And yet, with so much injustice in the world around us, it’s hard to know where to begin.


Theologian Karl Bath said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world”. And that’s just what injustice seems to be - the disorder of the world, the chaos of the world, the oppression we see, the poverty, the unnecessary and, too often, brutal conflict, famine, and a mental health epidemic. That’s just to name some of the issues. It’s about rightness, fairness, equity and, as Christian believers, we’ll agree it’s about God’s shalom, God’s ordained way for humanity. All missional endeavour must have at its heart, a yearning to see restoration and wholeness of people and places.


That ‘uprising’ against injustice begins when we clasp our hands in prayer. It is in prayer that we align our hearts with Jesus, we come into agreement with his words, his example, his teaching and his whole life and mission……but most of all we come into alignment with who he is. It’s from that place of union, union that is cultivated in the quiet spaces with him, that motivation for bringing his love for all humanity can spring forth.


Jesus lived for many years in relative obscurity, but we are left with no doubt that these years were characterised by a life of prayer, work and community. Early in his public ministry, Jesus went through Galilee teaching in the synagogues there. When he came to his hometown of Nazareth he read from the scroll of Isaiah. He finds this passage and reads it aloud (Luke 4):


‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to

the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,

to set free those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’


The life of Jesus that we read about in the Gospels is testament to what he calls, the fulfilment of these words of prophecy. He lived this mission with passion and fierce intentionality. This is the mantle we too have been given when Jesus told his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.


I invite you to think about your own context for a moment. Consider your own life, the rhythms and routines that you follow; think about your church community/congregation; what about the missions and projects you embark on, do they reflect these words from Isaiah 61? How aligned are they to the heart of Jesus that is so clearly on display in the Gospels?


Firstly, it’s really easy to find ourselves getting busy for Jesus, there’s so much affirmation in meeting needs in our communities, both local and global. We can run ourselves ragged in chasing after every need we see, asking God to bless our noble endeavours, without ever stopping to ask if we’re doing this with Jesus, in the power of his Spirit.


Secondly, our missional endeavours must have this hallmark of Jesus running through them. If we first clasp our hands in prayer, listen for the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit, and only then follow, we will see the ‘disorder of the world’ and the systems of oppression and poverty we see around us, slowly disarmed and lose their grip; our words of hope and our compassionate actions begin to usher in the shalom of the Lord, the rightness we desire to see. Injustices that pierce the heart are met in the mission of Jesus outlined in these crucial, foundational words he spoke and lived.


And so, there’s the challenge. We can speak these words, we can tell others they need the freedom that Jesus offers, we can preach it from pulpits up and down the land…..but is anyone listening?


Perhaps we will effectively bear witness to Jesus when these words - good news, release for captives, recovery of sight, freedom for the prisoners and oppressed, the Lord’s favour - are lived out by those who have already seen, tasted and witnessed this love, and then the same can be experienced by those who really need it, whom we come across on this pilgrimage through life in the everyday rhythms of our communities.


‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom…..’ May our lives bear witness to the freedom found in Jesus, may our missions bear witness to the life, teaching and truth of Jesus, and may our communities both local and global experience the fullness of Jesus’ invitation as injustice is disarmed.


Jon Timms Director: Scotland & North of England


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