sharing our hearts for freedom

Last Tuesday we had our first 21 for freedom prayer focus for 2014. Trafficking and modern-day slavery are regular themes in our intercession but the 21st day of each month is set aside to specifically concentrate on this. As we looked back on last year and ahead to this one, this is what came to mind and heart. We are sharing it widely to encourage and challenge and also so people can contact us with any ideas in reference to points 4 and 5.

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1. As painful as it has been, we thanked God for opening our eyes to this issue more fully. For those of you still new to it – the numbers are vast:

An estimated 27 million people worldwide are in some form of slavery or bonded labour – more than at any point in human history.

But it’s the stories of the one in 27 million that have really broken our hearts. Knowing each one is unique and precious and then reading their own story of exploitation. The faces and voices of these people have entered our lives this year and disrupted our complacent comfort with the reality of cocoa plantations, brothels and quarries.

The links to poverty and vulnerability are unsurprising but devastating.

The pursuit of power and money at the expense of powerless people is expected but offensive.

Looking back and forward, we are asking God to keep giving us the strength to allow our hearts to be broken as his is, as we – like him – listen, love, intercede and act.

A prayer for opened eyes and increased outrage

Lord Jesus, I said open my eyes – and you did
And now I almost wish I could un-pray that prayer,
Or look away, or simply shut them and forget.
But I can’t. And I won’t.

Lord Jesus, I want to speak up – but I don’t know how to start
And I wish I had more platforms and influence.
I’m tempted to wait till I have better knowledge.
But I can’t. And I won’t.

Lord Jesus, I have seen and heard.
And now I ask you to use me to speak up and reveal the truth
Until others cannot look away or deafen their ears, and we can’t settle.
And we won’t stay silent.
Until no one can be bought or sold any more.

2. We took encouragement from who our God is, his priorities and what we know about how he brings about change. We committed to keep praying with hope and faith in the sure and certain knowledge that he reigns.

On 21 January our daily psalm was 68. There were a lot of things in it that spoke deeply into this issue and provided us with another window into how God sees this situation.

In particular we prayed for those who are like ‘bulls’ in a ‘herd of calves’ to be convicted as verse 30 prompted.

And we reflected on one of the many images in scripture of God using the small to lead massive change. We prayed for the ‘little tribe of Benjamin’ leading the fight against trafficking – whether as intercessors, artisits, campaigners, politicians or rescuing organisations.

It has been heartening to watch this tribe growing over the last year – in numbers and in strength of voice and we prayed for it’s encouragement and further strengthening.

3. We celebrated breakthroughs and answers to prayer we have seen over the last year – from general progress such as a sense of the church waking up in a new way and increased public awareness to significant specific shifts or transformations.

In particular we highlighted:

Rescue stories in the news as well as coming through from organisations such as A21 – in the UK between September and December there were a series of high profile raids and rescues – again adding to public awareness and outrage.

Theresa May’s championing of reform on the issue generally and in particular the breakthrough with creating a new specific trafficking offense.

– In the UK and elsewhere, and in many parts of the world’s media, there seems to be a growing sense of political and social will for change.

– A21’s breakthroughs in lobbying work in Greece (the capital of trafficking in and out of Europe).

French politicians debating changing their law on prostitution to make customers not prostitutes the criminals. (This same approach led to huge transformation in Sweden when it was introduced there.)

4. We reviewed our own contribution through prayer to the fight against trafficking and modern day slavery and committed to keep growing this as we feel led.

– We want to increase still further our time and emphasis on praying about this issue – seeing it as one of our most central foci as it is on so many of our pray-ers hearts and there seem to be massive shifts happening.

– We hope to apply everything we have learned about praying from confide-nce and standing on answered prayer to help us pray in a way that is targeted, faith-filled and following God’s leading. We hope to identify – from listening to God and learning more from the experts – where the pivot points are for this issue, and focus our prayers on them. (We would love to hear from you if you have further insights into this but we will certainly be concentrating on Greece as one example.)

– We want to proactively own our role of standing with those at the coal face of the fight – circumstantially and politically – by supporting them in prayer and by taking the time to thank and encourage them specifically.

5. We discussed our resourcing contribution – and how this could grow.

– Many people have already found the Sanctuary’s song, What price? and our written prayers responding to this issue helpful and challenging and we committed to do more to proactively circulate them to churches and organisations less familiar with the Sanctuary.

– We know that songs, poetry and images can speak powerfully to our hearts to inspire, encourage, equip and challenge. Sometimes even in a way nothing else can. And we want to freely pour out our own gifts as a core team in this area and open up our resourcing site to more contributions from elsewhere on this issue.

– We want to publish more creative responses and tools for worship this year that will help many more people wake up to the issue, pray for the change that is on God’s heart which so many are catching and take action to play their part in bringing freedom. If you’re a creative with this issue on your heart – or just someone with an idea of what would be useful for someone else to create –  we’d love to hear from you…

Please God may 2014 be a year of unprecedented breakthrough for freedom. For the sake of all who are in slavery and all who are enslaving – may amazing grace be seen again even here.


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