Students – Persevering in the Pursuit of Justice

We are interrupting our Lent series that is following along with the Prayer Course II and Lectio 365 to share this inspiring update from Just Love in Scotland. We as 24-7 Prayer Scotland have had the immense privilege of working with Just Love in various contexts here in Scotland over the years and we would love for you to join us in praying for our amazing students as they pursue God and his heart for justice in our world while navigating the challenges of Covid-19.

As cliche as the phrase has become, these certainly are “strange times” to be at university. Christian students might have been forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal when it comes to living out their faith. Amazingly, our students in Just Love have not allowed this pandemic to prevent them pursuing justice all around the UK. We’ve been humbled by the way they’ve continued to volunteer in their local communities, run awareness-raising events, and fundraise for effective charities. We passionately believe that to pursue God’s heart is to pursue social justice, and our students have been living that out. 

We have 5 groups across cities in Scotland, and 19 across England. Whilst local volunteering is more challenging at this time, last term Just Love students in Edinburgh were able to volunteer with Safe Families, providing hope and support for children and families, and with Through the Roof, advocating for people with disabilities. The St Andrews students ran events on “God and Mental Health,” “Period Poverty,” and a Q&A with Krish Kandiah on fostering and adoption. The students in Glasgow have spent time focusing on long-term, structural solutions to homelessness as well as the immediate support they can offer. 

Across the Tay Road Bridge, Just Love Dundee have examined issues such as racism, homelessness, and drug crises. Further north, the group in Aberdeen have investigated what it looks like for us to pursue God’s justice with our whole lives, including our careers. Both groups have lent their energy to fundraising and awareness-raising through Dressember, a campaign that uses fashion and creativity to help fight human trafficking. In December, the students in Scotland raised over £4,500 for local and global anti-human trafficking charities. 

We’d love you guys to be praying for us. Please thank our generous God for our students, and for equipping them to remain faithful in these strange circumstances. Please thank him for the wonderful partners for whom our students volunteer and fundraise. We would appreciate prayer for our students’ continued perseverance, but also for their mental health. Please also pray for the Just Love staff team, that we would serve our students as best we can. Our team recently spent some time chatting to 24-7 Prayer’s Brian Heasley about the importance of prayer in making decisions. So, finally, please pray that we would be an organisation defined by our reliance upon our good God. 

If you’d like to find out any more about Just Love in Scotland, please feel welcome to email anna.spence@justloveuk.com, or find out more on our website, www.justloveuk.com   

Anna currently works with the epic Scottish groups and partners. She has just moved to Glasgow, but she’s Newcastle born and raised (and tries to bring it up as much as possible). She graduated from Oxford uni having studied Psychology and Philosophy, and loves overthinking how and why we should engage in social justice. She’ll tell you she loves 90s hip-hop and indie movies. She won’t tell you she loves McFly and drinks mochas.

Engaging with Lament

As part of our series which is following along with 24-7 Prayer’s Prayer Course II and Lectio 365, our team member Rachel shares her journey with learning to lament.

‘Christian lament is not simply complaint… at its fullest, biblical lament expresses sorrow over losing a world that was once good alongside a belief that it can be made good again. Lament isn’t giving up, it’s giving over. When we lift up our sorrow and our pain, we turn it over to the only one who can meet it: our God.’ Josh Larsen, Movies Are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings

“It’s fine, I’m fine…” These words have surrounded me for as long as I can remember. Where I grew up in the West Coast of Scotland, if you asked someone how they were doing, you’d be met with “Aye, am fine, yersel?” Only once you got to know someone well, could you tell if they were actually doing fine or not.

Growing up, I’d never seen pain expressed. The attitude was “do what you can to get by”. People didn’t really talk about their struggles, unless they had a happy ending.

I had been told “don’t bottle up your feelings” yet no one showed me how to express my feelings well, how express the pain in my heart. I’d witnessed people turn to coping mechanisms such as busyness, alcohol and self-deprecating humour; yet all that did was numb the pain for a little while. Even amongst my Christian friends, we’d share the things we needed prayer for on a surface level, but no one really talked about the pain underneath, the pain of the wait or the challenge of waking up each morning and not being healed.

I once broke down to a youth leader. It was over eleven years ago and I was frustrated with where I was in life, filled with confusion, hurt, living in pain and feeling distant from God. She asked if I’d prayed about it. I almost scoffed. I had, yes. I’d asked God to take it away and nothing had changed. But what I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t actually talking with God about the pain and the hurt itself.

Then one day, a friend recommended that I read God on Mute. And it was in that book that I came across the word lament.

In the book, Pete Greig says, “Pain needs to be expressed, for pain that is not expressed can never be transformed, and pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.

It was a deep revelation that I could express my pain, hurt and the deeper, hidden parts of my heart to God. Before, I had skipped over the Psalms where David cried out to God and, rather than viewing these Psalms of Lament as an example of honesty and vulnerability before God, I had focused on the Psalms of praise. But when I discovered lament, I realised that I could express myself honestly to God just as David did. That Jesus actually invites me to share the pain in my heart, the struggles, the things that make me angry – to be honest with him.

Lament feels counter-cultural to me. It’s putting my head above the parapet, humbling myself to say, “I can’t control this, I don’t have it all together and actually, God, I’m not fine.” Yet lament has given me the tool I need to come to God with my whole self engaged, the bits I like and the bits I don’t.

It still isn’t always easy. It takes discipline and bravery to sit down with a pen or a plectrum, take down the guards around my heart and be honest with God. I’ve learned it’s a process and to enter into lament slowly and with vulnerability – pausing, sharing with God the parts of myself that I’d rather keep hidden or in my own control. And then continuing to praise Him for who He is.

In learning to lament I’m learning to trust God more deeply and slowly, I’m also letting go of control. I’m unlearning the language of “being fine” and I’m learning to sincerely say, “Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me love. I love you. Today, I bring to you my pain, my hurt, my frustration; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

** If you want to learn more about how to lament, check out ‘How to Lament’ in the Toolshed on the Prayer Course website.

Rachel lives in Glasgow and has a heart to see prayer and justice flow throughout Scotland. In 2010, Rachel was given a copy of Red Moon Rising and God on Mute to read by her youth leader in response to her persistent questions about prayer and where God was in the silence. In 2017, Rachel first connected with the 24-7 Prayer Scotland Team after God set her heart on fire while in a prayer room in Austria to see unity in the church in Scotland! Rachel is married to Lal and in her spare time can be found playing music or watching Ice Hockey.

Engaging the Silence

Like many of you, our 24-7 Prayer Scotland team has been journeying through Lent along with Lectio 365, which is using Pete Greig’s book God On Mute as a basis for reflection. We are all finding it challenging, encouraging and helpful. So over these next few weeks we will be sharing our personal reflections and stories from this journey.
This week, Sam shares some of his personal wrestlings with silence.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” Mother Teresa

Sometimes I don’t pray when I say I will pray, should pray, or could pray. That might seem controversial to some – after all, this is the 24-7 Prayer blog – but it may be comforting to others who might feel like the only Christian out there who struggles with maintaining a regular practice of prayer. Our lack of praying is regularly diagnosed as a lack of discipline but I think it goes deeper than an inability to stick to routine.

Often, I ignore the place of prayer out of a deep sense of apprehension, sometimes even fear; a fear of what lurks beneath the surface of my soul. In stark contrast to a lot of our human interactions, when I sit in the presence of God, all that seems to greet me is silence. Quiet. As I sit in the silence, my heart starts to reveal itself to me, and often it isn’t pretty; in the worst-case scenarios, it actually feels overwhelming in its messiness. Due to my love for comfort and abhorrence for anything painful, I will often ignore prayer if it means ‘silence’. Sometimes it is just simply that life and circumstances around me feel too heavy and I don’t feel like I can handle anything else. But in this space, I have mistaken the place of prayer for a spiritual therapy room, rather than a wide-open field where I can rest under the shade that God’s presence offers.

Silence can often create the perfect environment for the very real and visceral lies that I believe about God to come to the surface and confront me. One of the most challenging of these that I have wrestled with – and continue to wrestle with – is that silence is the absence of the presence of God. When I sit and wait, I can hear my inner voice saying, ‘See, God wouldn’t share time with someone as faithless as you’, or ‘See, God is actually far off and distant.’ Yet silence has also often given me the gift of clarity around the state of the thoughts that shape my interactions with God; which in turn becomes an invitation from God to offer them to him, and let that shape the conversation we have as we journey through life together, as he inevitably proves these assumptions false and assures me of His faithfulness and mercy.

As I get older, I am beginning to appreciate silence as a process of becoming more comfortable with the fact that God doesn’t feel the need to rush to quieten my fear or fix my problems, but that he can rest and enjoy his creation with all its cracks and failings. My fidgety heart is yielding, little-by-little.

* If you want to learn more about engaging with silence in prayer, check out this ‘Prayer Tool‘ in the Toolshed on the Prayer Course website.

Sam lives just outside Glasgow in Kirkintilloch and is the Youth Work Coordinator at Bishopbriggs Community Church. In his spare time he loves to watch a good film and spend copious amounts of time with friends ( he is another level of extrovert ). His passions are Jesus, prayer, people, new plans and food.

Oor Scotland’s Identity

It’s Burns Night tonight!

So we thought we would share this beautiful, stirring prayer poem written one year ago by our team member Rachel Dhillon.

The poem is something that flowed out of Rachel’s heart as she sat praying and processing with God on a Scotland-bound train following our annual 24-7 Prayer EuroLeaders training weekend.

She had been pondering how, often when different nationalities are invited to pray in their native language, that we as Scots somehow feel we are not included in this. And a fire began to burn in her heart to see Scots stand unapologetically in their identity as Scots, to remember and cherish the rich Christian heritage in this land and to believe in and fight for the soul and purpose of this nation in prayer and in unity.

These words are the result of that fire lit within her, words in the heart language of Scotland.

A’m wantin’ tae see revival o’er oor land.
Fur oor folk tae staun oan the shudders o’giants.
Fur bairns tae na langer sit under th’ breid line.
Fur ilka body tae hae a hame.
Fur Scootlund tae wance again be a steid o’ beauty ‘n’ justice.
A’m wantin’ tae see Scootlund reclaim oor identity.

Ye huvtae understaun that ath’gither we huv a braw wee story.

We staun an we fought th’gither, we gret th’gither, we laughed th’gither, we aw sung th’gither, we raaged th’gither, but aboon a’ else, we loved th’gither.

We ur a faimily.

We ur a nicht warrior nation. Fae the Hielands tae th’ Borders, tae Glescae tae Auld Reekie. We ken oor faithers ‘n’ oor mithers ‘n’ th’ faith.

Thay said let Glescae flourish thro’ th’ preaching o’ thy word ‘n’ th’ praise if o’ thy name. An guid auld Scootlund wid be a land o’ th’ book. We mind th’ revival in the Isle o’ Lewis ‘n’ th’ battle fur oor nation.

‘N’ no it’s about time again; tae mind oor Scootlund’s identity.

As a nation that shouts withoot fear I’ a’ brass neck, that stauns in unity w’ yin another, whaur poetry ‘n’ songs ur written ‘n’ where justice flows lik’ water. Sae th’ day, we staun’ere ‘n’ say, that in this land, Oor God Reigns.

*Photo creds: Ciara Menzies Photography