A Day with International Justice Mission: A Beautiful Waste

  • This is Part One in a series on Beautiful Waste as prayer.

    “While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” – Mark 14: 3-7

    As 24-7 Prayer Scotland, one of our closest partners is International Justice Mission. We love the work that they do as an organisation around the globe and in Scotland; their passion to see an end to injustice and freedom for those facing exploitation. It was therefore a privilege to work alongside IJM last weekend for their Pray for Justice conference at Queens Park Baptist in Glasgow.

    Around the world there are roughly 1,000 member of IJM staff who each spend an hour of their working day in prayer. This totals up to around 5,000 hours of prayer a week, and approximately 260,000 hours of prayer a year! That’s a big chunk out of the staff’s working time. A lot of time not spent on busy and important things each member of staff have to do that day, but frittered away talking and listening to God. In light of this, the whole conference day centred on the theme of “A Beautiful Waste”, adapted from the story of perfume being poured on Jesus in Mark 14. IJM is leading the way in the global fight against slavery so stopping to pray could feel like a waste of time – but the work of justice begins at the feet of Jesus.

    This theme was fleshed out in the main sessions by our very own Crystal Cryer, the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland, and Benson Shamala who flew over from IJM’s office in Kenya. This theme of a beautiful waste was put into practice in the space given for workshops centring on different expressions of prayer, and in the afternoon we spent hours praying for different regions where IJM are working. This blog is simply the first in a series on prayer as a beautiful waste and some of the themes from throughout the conference shall be explored in further weeks.

    Every part of the day was focused on the truth that regardless of the desire, passion, and urgent need to stand up for those who do not have a voice, it is beautiful and powerful to waste our lives in the presence of God. Setting aside our productivity, passions, and fights to posture ourselves first and foremost towards Jesus.
    The rally cry for the day by IJM was that we can be modern day abolitionists, but we should be dependent modern day abolitionists, dependent on God. And that our pursuit for justice at its heart – above everything else – should be to glorify and worship God, because he is worthy to be glorified, just as the woman in Mark 14 shows us. It is very likely that the alabaster jar of nard would have been the woman’s entire inheritance. And yet, still she poured every last drop out on Jesus’ feet, anointing him. She understood even before the cross that Jesus was worthy of such an extravagant waste. A waste that resulted in her giving up her earthly stability, but a waste she still saw as necessary.

    Prayer can sometimes feel like a waste. Why am I sitting here? Why am I not out there? There is so much to be done and so little time, so why pray?

    I guess the simple answer that I took away from being with IJM and the example of devotion in Mark 14 is that it is because God is worthy.

    He is worthy of the sacrifice of our time, patience, and activity. He is worthy because he gave up everything for each one of us, because he loves us unconditionally, and because without him at the centre of everything that we do it’s just not going to work. Our strength and wisdom will fail quickly, but God’s strength and wisdom is infinite.
    So I guess my question back would be why not rely on God? Why not take an hour, or more, every day to worship him? Why not waste your life for the one who hand-crafted you, the one who intimately knows all the injustices of this world and whose heart breaks for those who are exploited and manipulated?

    Isn’t it a waste worth pouring out? A waste that is beautiful.

    Words by 24-7 Prayer Scotland intern

  • Taking the Limits Off Prayer

    Crystal shares about something we were involved in recently as part of the 24-7 Prayer GB family.

    As 24-7 Prayer, there are areas we know know God has called us to lead the charge in, new frontiers to pioneer, spaces for us to fill. However, we know we are also called to always have a towel in hand, ready to serve like Jesus so powerfully demonstrated for us in the Gospels.

    So when Spring Harvest told us that their focus for 2018 would be on prayer with the theme of ‘Unlimited’ and asked if we would support them through bringing our special 24-7 ‘flavour’ to the mix we were delighted to say yes and come alongside them across all three sites at Minehead, Skegness and Harrogate, serving wherever we were best placed.

    As part of the 24-7 Prayer GB family, we at 24-7 Prayer Scotland agreed to cover Harrogate since we were the furthest “north.” 😉
    Our responsibilities and involvement were significantly less at Harrogate so only I went down for it. Though I was pleasantly surprised to bump into a number of Scots who had braved the long drive.

    I went not knowing what to expect and, if I’m honest, a little skeptical as to how we could give four full days to a focus on prayer in every main session and in most every seminar without there being too much overlap and repetition.

    But the team had planned it out beautifully and the breadth and width of prayer that was covered was rich. There were passages of Scripture unpacked in a fresh way leaving me inspired by new revelation and perspective. And it was amazing to see people deeply touched by God, healed emotionally, freed from things like fear and shame, weary souls revived – all through messages on prayer!

    This time at Spring Harvest established deeper within me the conviction that teaching on prayer in the Church/Christian community is paramount. I met so many people in my own seminars and throughout the rest of the time there who were active, faithful members of their church, many who had been Christians most of their lives, many who were now in the “golden years” of life, yet who had never experienced real intimacy with God in prayer, or had never prayed aloud, who felt so inadequate that they barely attempted prayer, or had been so disappointed in the waiting or the lack of answers to their prayers that they no longer went deep and personal in prayer for fear of the pain, or they had struggled with guilt and shame around prayer because they felt they hadn’t been faithful in it.
    Most of us will struggle with at least some of these things at some point in our walk with Jesus – but so many had lived like this for years!
    Oh, the joy of hearing these people share how one truth spoken in a seminar, main session or during the morning Bible teaching had unlocked something for them and now they were experiencing a new freedom, boldness, excitement, expectation, intimacy with God or joy in prayer!

    It was also incredibly exciting to see so many respond to God’s call to us as his people to stand in the gap through prayer for the world around us, to awaken and to choose to step out of apathy and commit to intentionality in prayer and intercession.

    It is always a deep honour to me to be allowed to serve Jesus’ Church, especially through teaching on prayer, and this time was no different as I was privileged to be part of taking the limits off prayer for people and watching them soar to new heights!

    24-7 Prayer seeks to resource the Church in prayer and have developed (and are continuing to develop) a number of quality resources to help groups and individuals pray – from the Inner Room prayer app to Pete Greg’s latest book How to Pray. Check out the 24-7 Prayer website for more information on these resources.

    And if you are interested in having someone from 24-7 Prayer Scotland come to your community to teach or speak on prayer, contact us at scotland@24-7prayer.com.

    Gethsemane: Sitting in Sorrow

    Today is Good Friday.
    A bittersweet day.

    A day of sadness and sorrow.
    But also a day of remembrance, realignment, and hope. Because we know what is coming next. Sunday!

    However, today, I urge you not to push past the sadness into Sunday.
    Rather linger here a little while longer.
    Sit in the story of Jesus. Sit with him as he endures torture and humiliation.
    Sit with him as he says,
    “Father, the hour has come” John 17:1
    Sit with him on this day, the day he dies. The day he dies for each and every one of us.

    To help you do this, ponder over this poignant poem.
    Let it transport you to a garden at nightfall.
    Where you’ll find a man on bended knees.
    To a night that changes history.

    Gethsemane
    Brittle leaves and dappled evening light
    in Gethsemane
    Olives underfoot
    Soon to be gathered and crushed to
    golden oil

    Crickets trill in the hush of nightfall as
    he walks alone,
    Feet dusty but fragrant with the
    perfume of kings.

    Tomorrow these same feet will
    stumble bloodied through the streets,
    then be bound and nailed to a tree.

    But tonight they shuffle through the
    fallen leaves and sun bleached grasses of
    a garden
    Free to run or fight;
    He comes to pray at the crossroads of
    history.

    Kneeling, deathly sorrow weighs on
    his limbs and echoes in his words;
    “Father… may this cup be taken from
    me”? This bitter cup the heavy cost of
    grace
    “But not my will but yours be done” he
    prays
    As his feet point towards the cross
    To be pierced, crushed and poured
    out for love.
    Poem by the lovely Kelsey Johnston

    Rhythms of Prayer – Justice

    ‘But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ Amos 5:24

    We long to see justice roll, yet upon hearing of the 8-year old boy enslaved on a fishing boat, the prisoner illegally detained, the child held in prostitution, we feel completely helpless. I am no lawyer, investigator, social worker. Maybe not, but the work of justice begins with you and I – to seek justice means to first seek the God of justice.

    The great mystery of God is that he calls us into what he is doing. He could proclaim the gospel to the entire world in a breath, feed a nation with five loaves and two fish, calm any storm with a word, release captives by his angels. Yet he invites us to join him – a global movement seeking justice, moved to stand with the prisoner, with the child… moved to pray.

    What does this look like? How do we pray that justice would roll on like a river?

    Water looks different depending on where it is in a river’s watercourse – the brief, powerful, tumbling flow of a waterfall; the narrow, steady meander around a bend in a valley; some times a wide, slow current. There will be times of brief and powerful intercession and times of steady, rhythmic and prayerful petition – the roar of thousands in a stadium, the whisper of a boy in his bed.

    At International Justice Mission (IJM), daily rhythms of prayer are written into each day, every staff member spending one hour of their contracted daily time in prayer – half an hour in stillness and silence and half an hour corporately. Aware of our human limitations, before each lawyer steps into court, investigator goes undercover, social worker begins a session, or speaker stands on a stage, we pray, ‘God, let justice roll.‘ Sometimes we see a miraculous provision, a rescue of scale beyond belief, other times months are spent relentlessly praying for breakthrough in a case – justice seemingly a steady, slow trickle. Like a river’s watercourse, prayer looks different each day, but it happens faithfully, rhythmically, in the knowledge that justice begins and ends with God.

    In his book Good News About Injustice, IJM’s CEO Gary Haugen writes about ‘compassionate permanence – a courageous and generous capacity to remember the needs of an unjust world even when they are out of our immediate sight’. Just as an infant loses interest in a toy when it is removed from sight, so too is it easy to lose interest in the reality of injustice in our world. There have been times that my heart has been powerfully moved to stop and fight in prayer for a person or situation, only to then so quickly forget. It is through rhythms of daily prayer that I am beginning to cultivate a remembrance of those suffering abuse and oppression in our world. Only by the steady, never-failing stream of prayer, will we see breakthrough – people rescued and healed, systems and nations transformed, a world meandering towards justice.

    Every river, every rhythm, starts somewhere – join the global prayer movement and see justice roll on.

    Don’t know where to start? Sign-up for IJM’s updates and pray with us.

    Zoë Anderson is part of the International Justice Mission (IJM) team; working throughout Scotland to mobilise volunteers, students and youth in championing the work of justice within their own spheres and according to their own strengths. IJM is a global organisation made up of lawyers, social workers, investigators and community activists who protect the poor from violence. Since being founded in 1997, they have grown to become the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation, partnering with local authorities around the world to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems.

    For further ideas and inspiration around how to pray in times of crisis and in situations of injustice, check out the Prayer page on the the 24-7 Prayer website.