“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