Prayer, Justice & Students

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals, Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

Lately this prayer of blessing has really struck me. Its words have been catching me by surprise and holding my attention. I recently read it aloud at the end of a training event I facilitated for Just Love groups based in Scotland. While reading it, I felt the words hold a powerful authority over the room of 30 students. The blessing resonated with many there as it proclaimed God’s hope, grace and truth. This prayer has become my prayer for Just Love. I want students to believe and know that they not only have influence, but that they can and will make an impact in this world.

Since graduating in June I’ve been working for Just Love as their Scotland Coordinator. My role involves supporting and engaging students to pursue God’s heart for justice. While I have only been in the job for six months, I believe I am witnessing the start of a shift in student culture. I’m starting to see a generation of students awaken to injustice in their universities, cities and world.

Over the past six months the story of Just Love in Scotland has been wild and unexpected. We’ve seen two new groups start in Dundee and Edinburgh, while our groups in Glasgow and St Andrew’s have grown in confidence and depth. In every community there are students who are deeply passionate about building God’s kingdom. What I’ve noticed, however, is that justice is being etched out through rhythms of prayer and sabbath. Students I work with are seeking God out in varied, creative and authentic ways as they look step into the chaos of injustice.

Of late the Just Love group in Glasgow organised a retreat based on the theme of sabbath, taking 40 students away to explore how prayer and reflection could enhance their campaigns. While in St Andrew’s, the community, alongside the Christian Union and various churches, held a week of 24-7 Prayer as they sought prayer for their friends, their town and global justice issues.
Attitudes seem to be shifting and hope seems to be mounting. Students are realising that change in Scotland and beyond is possible. But amidst all this are individuals who value and seek prayer, tuning into what God is doing and where God is moving. I have had countless discussions with students who are desperate for Jesus to be at the centre of their campaigns, events and communities.

A recent conversation I had with a student involved in the new group in Edinburgh resonated with me. He stated that his desire for their group is that they would be “praying without ceasing”. He wants Just Love Edinburgh to be rooted in prayer, not wanting it to be side-lined. He recognises that transformation of issues such as global poverty, homelessness, climate change and addiction cannot be done unless God is there.

As I look forward to next year I do not know what shape Just Love in Scotland will take. I hope that it is formed through prayer and reflection. What I do know is that this movement is so much bigger then me, than one individual student or even one group. God is in this and that means anything could happen. I am merely a steward who has enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, hoping that we can do what others say cannot be done.

Fiona is the Scotland Coordinator for Just Love, a charity working across the UK to inspire and release Christian students to pursue the biblical call to social justice. She lives Glasgow, having recently graduated from university with a degree in Theatre Studies. Fiona loves creativity, casting vision and developing leaders. She also enjoys coffee, theatre and simultaneously wearing several items of denim.

TRIBE: A Generation with Bruised Knees & Dirty Hands

‘One day God showed me this:
Charing cross, in the middle of Glasgow, was covered with a dark smog and in the middle of this darkness was a black flag – the enemy marking his territory. Then, marching down toward Charing Cross, was an army surrounded by a golden atmosphere – wherever they set their feet, it turned to gold. At the front of this army someone held aloft a red flag – the King marking His territory. Hovering above this army was a throne, on which sat a slain lamb. As God let me linger on this picture of an army taking back their city from the powers of darkness, the words of Isaiah 61 rang through my head:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a garment of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
God was showing me His heart for an army of warriors – prayer warriors – who would establish His royal reign in our city and our nation. God said to me, “I am raising up a generation who are marked by bruised knees and dirty hands.”
I believed we would see a generation of people who are hungry to pray and to serve, to get their hands dirty advancing the Kingdom of God. They will see many come to know and receive the love of Jesus, and these will be the very ones who will “rebuild the ancient ruins“! C’MON!

The only issue was, I didn’t have a clue how any of this was to happen.
Then, through a number of circumstances and Divine setups, in the summer of last year it became clear that this army God showed me was to be made up of students. Yet everywhere I turned, students were either burning out, dropping off from their relationship with Jesus or getting bored. Then came this idea – gather students together to encounter the heart of God through prayer, and from that place they will have a heart to see His Kingdom come.

So, this is TRIBE.
Every month around 30 of us gather in someone’s flat and pray for the Spirit of God to anoint us for the transformation of this city; for our friends to become the “oaks of righteousness” that are on display for the fame of God; for our campuses to be more like heaven. Through these prayer gatherings we’re seeing the very early signs of this bruised-kneed, dirtied-handed generation.

We’ve heard some great stories of answered prayer and acts of boldness. We’ve seen friends ask their non-Christian friends along (not a conventional outreach strategy), and they have ended up being prayed for then praying for others! One of them even began a relationship with Jesus!!

One of my favourite stories is of a girl who came along on the first night and was burdened by her friend who had been consistently evangelised and had tens of people praying for his conversion, had declared that he was done exploring who Jesus was and was happily agnostic. That night she and a friend prayed for him and tangibly sensed a change within themselves of hope bursting through. A couple of days later, her friend comes out of his bedroom and declares to his flatmates that he’s fallen in love with Jesus and has become a Christian!
We knew then that God definitely wanted to do amazing things through the prayers lifted up in these gatherings!

What is the future for TRIBE? We will continue to meet once a month to pray and to contend for the Kingdom-transformation we yearn for. However, we have a vision to see TRIBE become a movement that gathers students across the nation(s) in prayer and fasting to see their world renewed. We see this as a movement that enables students to lead intimate lives with Jesus and to walk in their God-given authority within their cities.
This vision cannot, and should not, be accomplished by us alone; we want to partner with others to see this vision realised. We need the whole Church; we are simply one tribe within a bigger family – the family of God. Please do pray for us, and for this generation. Support and pray for those students – Christian and non-Christian alike – that you know.
And feel free to be in touch and support us in any way that you feel led.’

Sam Donaghey, who leads TRIBE along with a team of other students, is presently a student at SBC in Glasgow, has a passion for prayer, for people to encounter the love and transforming-power of Jesus, for his generation, his city of Glasgow and his nation of Scotland, and for really good food.
To find out more about what TRIBE are up to check out: facebook.com/glasgowtribe

Gathering

Scotland has an ancient history of gathering. Pausing from work, from the every day and coming together to celebrate, to mourn, to tell stories, to feast, to sing, to dance; and in some types of gatherings, to pray.

This gathering is part of every culture’s history, but it is a tradition that is particularly dear to the heart of the Celt.

On Saturday, 24th February 24-7 Prayer Scotland is hosting a Gathering. It’s nothing terribly new but in years past they have been called “Network Days” or “Resource Days” and we felt those names didn’t capture the heart of these special annual times together.

So 2018 is the start of the annual “24-7 Prayer Scotland Gathering” and we are greatly expectant of God as we listen to His heart for this day together.

There have been some fantastic stories leaking out across Scotland – from the Borders to the Islands – of God stirring hearts in prayer and increasing hunger for His presence.
Quite a number of prayer weeks, prayer rooms, prayer weekends and prayer events happened across Scotland in 2017. There were increased opportunities for us as 24-7 Prayer Scotland to bring teaching and inspiration around prayer.And the prayer initiative Thy Kingdom Come saw a good amount of Scottish churches engage in prayer across Pentecost.
Just in this month of January, we have seen 5 locations running 24-7 Prayer Weeks with at least two of those prayer weeks involving several churches across the city!
And all of this is only what we know for certain because the prayer rooms and events have been registered or we have been in direct communication. There have been many more prayer weeks and events that haven’t been registered or in direct communication but we have heard snippets of exciting stories from those who just happened to be there at the time.

As we enter into this new year and pray into February’s Scotland Gathering, the word that is impressed on our hearts is the word ‘Awake.‘ And the sense we have is the same as when you see the first snow drops bravely show themselves above ground, or that sense that comes when you are awake early enough to catch the unique light of the dawn of a new day.

We are excited to be partnering with God at this time in our beautiful nation of Scotland and are excited to gather with all of you in February, to hear your stories and to celebrate together, to sing and to feast together, to pray and dream and listen to God for our nation together.

We are also really chuffed to have 24-7 Prayer GB’s director Carla Harding and Prayer Spaces in Schools’ Phil Togwell gathering with us. They will be sharing exciting things that God is doing farther afield but they are most looking forward to just simply being with us all.

We really hope you can be a part of it. We recognise it will be more of a sacrifice and a journey for some more than others but we believe you’ll find it worth it.

For more details and to book your place, go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/24-7-scotland-gathering

** Register and book your ticket soon as we are limited in numbers.

Living Awake

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries…”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

There is a story in the Bible that recently caught my attention. Just one verse actually. It is in Genesis 28 and Jacob is running for his life because his brother Esau is furious with him (for good reason), furious enough to murder him.
Jacob is on his way to his uncle’s and it is quite a journey. Growing weary he stops for the night and in his sleep has an incredible encounter with God, a revelation through a dream that the veil between earth and heaven is much thinner than he realised.
And it is this line that reached in and grabbed hold of my heart:
‘Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

I began to wonder how many times throughout 2017 the presence of God was in a place, a person, a moment, a situation and I was not aware of it. How many times have I raced from one place to the next, one thing to the next, one conversation to the next, maybe out of fear, anxiety, stress, worry, pressure, imagined expectations? How many times have I been so focused on the destination, the vision, the goal, what’s next, my head, heart and spirit distracted by my own thoughts and emotions, that I have been completely unaware of the God who delights in revealing Himself, who loves to speak to us and show us things?

Scripture is filled with moments like Jacob experiences here, and those moments are precious, often the opening to something more, containing an invitation from God to participate in His Great Story.
I think of Moses and the burning bush. Genesis 2:2-4 says ‘…He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…’
“When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…” – wow! I think there is a part of Himself that God reserves for those moments that we “turn aside to see”, those times that we choose to slow down and open our eyes and ears to what is happening around us.
I think of the Wise Men who saw the special star at the birth of Christ and because they were looking, they were aware, they were awake and they chose to “turn aside and see” they met the Messiah. Or Simeon in the Temple who had all of his life been waiting on God’s promised Saviour and when Mary & Joseph brought young Jesus into the Temple Simeon had eyes to see what so many never did.
I think of Peter taking time to withdraw onto the rooftop to pray and the revelatory encounter with God he had there that changed the history of the gospel forever – all because he “turned aside to see” what God had to say.

This year of 2018, I don’t want to rush from here to there, distracted and wearied and my vision clouded by muchness and manyness. I want to live awake and aware, that I may have moments where I “turn aside to see”, where I am able to say “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did know it!

Would you like to join me?

24-7 Prayer is posting weekly blogs on their website all throughout the month of January on living counter-culturally and embracing the slowness of God. If your heart resonates with what I have written above, then you will find these blogs helpful and inspiring.
24-7prayer.com/blog/2733/2018-start-slow-the-blog-series