How can prayer address human suffering and unjust structures in the world? Br. James Koester shares his own experiences of the power of prayer around the struggles in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
Transcript: One of the things that people rely on us for from all over the world is our ministry of prayer and intersession. It’s an extremely important part of our life, and we spend – individual brothers spend – a lot of time praying for the needs of individuals and the world. We devote parts of the noonday office, Compline, the Eucharist, for prayer for the needs of the world. And I think as we wonder what or how we as individuals can transform unjust structures, one of the things that we can ask is how can prayer do that.
I remember as a teenager, two really powerful experiences that I had. One of them was during the apartheid struggle in South Africa, and the other was around the troubles in Northern Ireland. And I remember for years, and years, and years in the parishes that I belonged to, we frequently prayed for Northern Ireland or Southern Africa, and it seemed like that line from the Psalm, “How long, oh, Lord, how long.” And nothing ever seemed to change in either Northern Ireland or Southern Africa … and then they did.
And so I often look to Southern Africa or Northern Ireland and remember how much those people relied not just on our social witness, but on prayer, our prayer in solidarity with them as they struggled for justice, and I believe our prayers were answered. It wasn’t just that the social action that people were doing, and that was real and important as well. But it was also people’s constant daily, faithful prayer for justice, which I believed helped change the world.
I often find myself reading a newspaper or listening to the radio and looking at the news of the world and wondering what on earth I can do to change it. Well, one thing I can do is to pray. What one place in the world, or one situation in the world, can you devote your prayer to, to make a change, and make the world a better place?
– Br. James Koester
Question: For what place or situation in the world will you devote yourself to pray?
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This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?