Love Life Live Lent – 7th March – Pray about the news

First, there’s the whole “Blimey, there’s so much going wrong in the world where do I start?” question.   And then there’s the less enormous but more personally challenging, “But what exactly am I praying will happen, here?” Then there’s the, “Who am I actually praying for?” question.

Question 1 is dealt with pretty easily: we’ll never cover absolutely everything – even the news doesn’t do that – and in the end we simply have to trust God that the whole world really is in his hands.

Question 2 is really hard.  For some news stories we may well have in mind what we believe is the right outcome. In these, our prayers have to leave God space to reach a different conclusion.   For some news stories we may have simply no idea how it should end; war, in particular, seems more complex all the time, and there are no straightforward answers about what should happen.  In these news stories, perhaps all we can do is hand the whole lot over to God and ask him to pour the oil of his love on the complicated, troubled waters of human behaviour and sin.

Question 3 is harder still.  Sometimes a news story has what appear to be clear goodies and clear baddies. But more often than not, it’s more grey than black and white.  And even when it seems obvious who is the victim and who is the sinner, do not both need our prayers?  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus said.  How hard it is to pray for that politician making a speech that you find morally repugnant, or for that former financier being charged with fraud!  Yet both are human beings, with hopes and dreams and fears, with families and friends, and struggles that we may know nothing about, and motivations that we are not privvy to, and regrets that we may never have to face.  Both are in need of prayer, just as anyone else.

Prayer costs us no money, and only a small amount of time, but sometimes it can cost us a great deal emotionally and spiritually.  This Lent, may God give us hearts generous enough to pray not only the easy prayers, but the difficult ones too.

Love life live Lent – day four: Watch the news and pray…

Sometimes when we look at the news it feels like all we can do is pray. The situation is too dire, the problem too big, for anything we can do to have any effect. Sometimes it may even feel as if our prayers are too small.

But today, people will be praying for what’s on the news like never before, because today, the Love Life Live Lent action is to watch the news and pray about it.  There will have been prayers arising with the breakfast news, there will be more with the lunchtime news, and still more with the evening bulletins.  And thanks to 24 news services, news websites and twitter, I imagine that today’s prayer vigil for all that’s going on in the world is pretty much non-stop.

But even today, it’s not the size or the quality of our prayers that makes the difference, it’s the fact that God is always more ready to listen than we are to pray. And that he knows the deepest truth and hurt of every situation better than we ever can.  Even if it seems that nothing is happening, God is already at work, answering our prayers – and responding to all the things we should have prayed about but didn’t – in ways that we can’t even imagine.  And he’s at work in us, ensuring that our praying changes not only those things that are external to us, but also that which is inside us, so that we ourselves can become ways for God to answer our own prayers and those of others.

Prayer is a mysterious process.  It’s something we do in faith and in hope and in love as well as out of duty and habit. And sometimes it’s the only thing we can do.  But if you’re struggling with today’s action, to pray for what’s on the news, then why not try some of these ideas to help your prayers feel more real:

1. When you near about a news story, write down a list of all the people affected by it (our you could even draw them) – include not only those who appear to be the victims, but also those who seem to be causing the hurt. Pray for them all.

2. As you sit down to watch the news, set out a row of small candles. For each news story, think about were the darkness is, and how it comes to be. Who is bringing the darkness into that situation? Are you part of what makes that place dark, or sad, or scary?  Ask God to be with those people for whom the world is a dark place. Then light one of the candles, and think about all the people who are able to bring light into that situation, and thank God for them. Ask yourself if you are one of those people.

3. If you read the news online, pick a story that has moved you, or challenged you, and share it on facebook or twitter, inviting those you’re in contact with online to spare a moment to pray, with you, for the people involved.

4. If you’re reading the news in a newspaper, cut out the articles that you’ve chosen to pray about, and put the clippings in a safe place, where you can revisit them each day.  If a news story develops, keep subsequent articles too, so that you can update your prayers, and even start to give thanks if things look as if they are getting better. You could even start a prayer scrapbook.

There are lots of other ways to make prayers for what’s on the news feel real. Why not share your ideas on twitter using the #livelent hashtag, or leave a comment here?