"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke? - Isaiah 58:6
Nine in ten people forced to use a food bank are facing extreme poverty, unable to afford the basics or put food on the table. The Trussell Trust supports more than 1,200 food bank centres in the UK to provide nutritionally - balanced emergency food to people in crisis, who have been referred to a food bank, as well as support to help people resolve the crises they face.
Ribble Valley foodbank is run in partnership with local churches, through the Ribble Valley Gateway Trust. Last year it distributed three day’s food to 1560 people in crisis need in the Ribble Valley. Our foodbank was initiated by local Christians, and has centres, in Clitheroe and Longridge. 75 volunteers are involved in the project. Through the Olive Branch Cafe (at Trinity Church) Foodbank helps people connect with Government and Local Authority agencies to try and find long term solutions for underlying needs.
Please pray for:
• People in crisis who need to use a food bank
Thousands of people need to use the food banks each week. Pray that each person would feel valued and cared for, as well as receiving the food and support they need. Pray that they will be well supported to access any other services and activities that would help address some of the causes of their crisis.
• Food bank staff and volunteers
Food banks in the Trussell Trust network are supported by close to 30,000 volunteers. Thank God for the dedication and compassion they show as they welcome and serve people experiencing acute poverty. Pray that God would strengthen them, protect them, energise them, and use them to impact lives with love, kindness, and compassion.
• A future without the need for food banks
Pray for the fulfillment of the Trussell Trust vision for a future without the need for food banks. Ask that God would inspire individuals, organisations, and communities to get involved in making this
a reality. Pray for creative ideas and fruitful partnerships, and that we would see churches, individuals, communities, businesses, politicians, and public servants coming together to build a hunger free future where no one goes hungry.
• The trustees of the Ribble Valley Gateway Trust as they seek to support the Ribble Valley Foodbank in meeting the needs of people facing extreme poverty.
Thank you for your love and kindness.
You are a God of mercy, justice, and compassion, and yet we acknowledge that these qualities are not always reflected in our lives, in our community, and in our society.
Help us to respond to suffering, poverty, and hunger in ways that usher in your kingdom:
to see people as you see them,
to share your loving-kindness in the darkest situations, to challenge injustices that trap people in poverty, to build a future that sets people free,
so that everyone can share in the fullness of life that Christ offers to us all.
Pray for the strength to be a neighbour to Palestine and Israel
We must all be wondering what our response as Christians should be to what is currently happening in Israel. As each new conflict comes to the fore, the others lessen in our awareness – Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq. As Christian Action Research Education (CARE) say, “It is remarkable how quickly we settle into a new acceptance of how things are. War has ravaged Ukraine now for more than a year and yet now we barely speak of it. And within a fortnight, we have just grown accustomed to daily headlines of bombings, deaths and violence dominating the BBC news feed.” We are barely aware of all the other conflicts - 45 armed conflicts are currently taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa. There are 100 million displaced people in the world with 50% in, or from, Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan.
Human rights are a major concern in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. There are currently over 40 million slaves in the world including an estimated 186,000 in the UK.
In response the attack of Hamas from Gaza there is talk of a “just war”, the right of a country to “defend itself” and of a “proportional” response.
What would Jesus say about Gaza and Israel, and what do the Gospels say? The phrase ‘just war ’does not appear within Scripture, but the concept was developed by Augustine and developed more by Thomas Aquinas. Yet history tells us that any just war comes with a big price. When the British moved out of what is now Israel, in 1948, the Arabs attacked from all the surrounding countries, but were pushed back by the Israelis in an unexpected show of defence. The Arabs tried again and again, particularly in the defeat and humiliation after the 6 day war in 1967. To hate defeat and seek redress is in human nature.
It is worth reflecting on the story of Troy in Greek mythology. How do you end a conflict which has lasted for generations? How can people co-exist who have spent their lives fearing, fighting and even killing one another? How do you break the cycle of violence, rather than merely seeking revenge? The tale of the Trojan War is one of the earliest and deepest stories ever told, as the combined armies of Greece took on the might of the city of Troy. The Trojan prince, Hector kills in battle the cousin of Achilles, Patroclus. The next day Achilles hunts Hector down and takes his revenge. Hector’s cousin asks Achilles, “You lost your cousin. Now you have taken mine. When does it end?” Achilles ’response provides an insight into human nature: “It never ends.”
And yet it could end if only we heeded the Gospels and the words of Jesus.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Mathew 22, 37-40
Paul reduces it to just one commandment, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Galatians 5.14
Paul understands that loving God is the same as loving neighbour. We cannot do one without the other. There are those who say they don’t believe in God, yet seem to show love and kindness greater than ourselves. It is impossible to not believe in God and we now speak of agnostics rather than atheists. God is incomprehensible, ineffable. People who profess to be unbelievers, may love God but by another name, another concept, something undefinable, such is God.
To grasp something of the essence of God, recall that St. Athanasius said, “"For the Son of God became man so that we might become God”. He understood that the divine essence pervades us all, that God is within us. Pope Francis goes so far as to say, and no doubt he wasn’t the first to say it, that God is in every speck of dust. And in this world, God acts from within us. This is captured in an interesting definition of petitionary prayer, from the Vatican to Catholic bishops, sent recently. Most of you won’t recognise it. “We must believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer, which is not about bending God’s will to ours. Rather, intercession is about asking the Lord to enlighten our hearts with the power of his life-giving Spirit so that we might discern and do his will. ‘To intercede ’also means to assume responsibility, to declare before God our participation and our involvement.
And so, with respect to what is happening in the Middle East God does not expect us to ask Him to fix it, He asks that we use His power through ourselves to fix it. He came to Earth to show us how to fix it, to fix it by living the life of Christ and doing in all circumstances what He did, and would do were He here now.
But we don’t do we? Sister Margaret Atkins, Canoness of St Augustine in the community at Boarbank Hall, Cumbria reminds us of Pope Francis ’words in speaking of the “globalisation of indifference” and “structural sin”. She speaks of the pressures within the world leading to structural sin – consumerism and hedonism
Jesus did not cry out for vengeance against the man who betrayed him, the disciples who abandoned him, or the soldiers who crucified him. Instead, he loved them all. “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus speak of anything but love and forgiveness. Jesus came with that message to change the world. And so it must be with us. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. And how do we do that? Often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi are the words, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”
We will not change the world by exerting a right to defend ourselves, by “just” wars, or by “proportional” responses to aggression. It is clear that those things have never worked and never will. We must first accept our personal complicity in structural sin and pray for the strength to change ourselves and advocate for change in others.
We must act out peace and advocate for peace. We must pray for peace with a personal commitment to back it up in whatever we can, understanding that in praying for peace, we are praying that we ourselves can acknowledge our leanings to consumerism and hedonism, that we can acknowledge our personal complicity in all that follows from structural sin, that in this way we can
all make our own individual contribution to alleviating unfairness and injustice in the world, and that we can show others how they can do likewise.
But what does that actually mean? Be aware – don’t shy away from knowing because it sickens you, live more simply in the knowledge that we are living on the backs of those less fortunate than ourselves, but be aware that we don’t give to the poor, we only give back to them what is already theirs, advocate for Church and Government to speak the language of peace and justice, wear a white poppy, pray and remember that prayer includes acceptance of responsibility in allowing God to act through us. Pray for the strength to do the things we can do all the things that are in our power to do. Pray that little by little we can do more each day to change ourselves and make our contribution to changing the world.
Lord and Lover of Souls, when will the violence end?
When will difference cease to justify murder and war?
When will your creation be at peace?
Our sin nailed Your beauty to a cross,
Our fixed views, prejudice, greed and blindness tries to hold You there
Blessed Christ we take hold of You now as your people kill and maim
Blessed Christ we lift you down that You might in turn hold us up high
To see beyond the limits of our sight and our fallen world,
To see the kingdom of heaven within each one of us and let it reign
Help us each be who you want us to be and so strike back against war and derision
Help us draw closer to You every day as a step toward peace
Help us love our neighbour as ourself and see you in all things.
Lover of souls, save us from ourselves
We cannot change the world but You can change us
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Salvation Army Centre (Clitheroe)
The SA Army centre in Clitheroe is open every day offering support and services to many vulnerable people across the town and beyond. Brenda and Elizabeth run the centre. They have a number of prayer requests:
• Sunday Church. Please pray that we will be able to help people who come to us to a better lifestyle, and that our patience, love and care will point them to Jesus. Please pray also that we will be given wisdom regarding how to help in the best way.
• The SA continue to open our doors weekly for a free lunch. This has led to other kinds of practical help in the Name of Jesus. Please give thanks to our Lord for those who have come along side to give us practical support, which enables us to meet the need.
• Music Programme. The SA in Clitheroe have recently began a new music programme for people with disabilities. Please pray that the contacts we make with those who attend, with Carers, and with family members will have a spiritual impact.
• Dementia Friendly Friendship Group We would appreciate prayers for our Dementia Friendly Friendship group, in conjunction with Burnley Football Welfare Department. So far it is quite a small group. We are aware that there are lonely people in Clitheroe who could benefit from this venture. Please pray that new people will come in to benefit from the company and the happy atmosphere.
• Prayer Meeting Our Prayer Meeting is growing. Please give thanks to God for Noel, who leads the Prayer meeting and includes the new-comers in a gentle, thoughtful way, encouraging them to read out written prayers.
• Addictions We continue to work with people who have addictions, and messy lives. Due to the unpredictable nature of their lives, this can be quite stressful. Please pray for strength and patience for both of us.
• Food Poverty We also continue our work with fuel poverty, and emergency food parcels when Food Bank is closed. Please pray that the recipients of food from Food Bank and us, will recognise it is prompted by the love of the Lord within us.
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Matthew 15:21-28
This month’s Prayer for our Community comes from Catholic Deacon Damian Buggy, and an unknown Confederate soldier.
Today’s [August 20] Gospel would have been a newspaper editor’s dream, a gift for the front page. “The Messiah messes up!” “Jesus had a day off from compassion! “ “Unless you are from Israel, forget Salvation.”
Indeed the Gospel makes uncomfortable reading. Jesus appears to not only ignore and rebuff the woman but he is positively rude towards her – seemingly going against the grain of everything we think Jesus was and is.
However, perhaps the real headline grabber is the Canaanite woman who for the disciples and Jesus is seen as a despised and unclean foreigner. Yet this wonderful tenacious woman, who in a battle of words with Jesus, definitely comes out on top. And this woman, as my Gran used to say, can teach us a thing or two about faith, humility and prayer. She also deserves the headline billing as she is, apart from Mary, the one woman in the whole of the Gospel, who gets Jesus to change his mind.
Jesus informs her that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, a seemingly firm rebuff to the gentile foreigner. She is outside of his jurisdiction and consequently of no concern to him. Yet she awakens something in Jesus. Her reply is to let Jesus know that his mission is not, cannot be, simply for the house of Israel. Love, compassion, mercy and healing cannot and do not stop at boundaries.
So Jesus, in healing her daughter, deals a deadly blow to all our prejudices, showing us that it won’t matter which group, which Faith, which side of town you are from. What matters to Jesus is simply your love and your faith.
And it is the woman’s courage, love and faith that allows the healing of her daughter to take place. And it is she who will bear witness to a God of abundance, a God rich in mercy, who is indeed Lord of all to all.
What I also find startling and moving is the woman’s reaction to being ignored and rejected. Out of complete humility, she kneels at the feet of Jesus. She is open, completely vulnerable and her prayer is a raw cry from the soul, “Lord help me”, a prayer that touches Jesus’s heart. She is willing, happy to pay any price, even public humiliation, in order to receive the grace mediated by Jesus. And in the league table of Faith, she receives top marks.
Perhaps her perseverance holds a light for us in our prayer. I have a book of children’s letters to God and I love Bruce’s letter – his prayer to God, “Dear God, please send me a pony. I never ask for anything before, you can look it up. Bruce”.
Jesus shows us today just how important it is that we persevere in prayer and, unlike Bruce, constantly at him for all our needs. We may find time in our lives when God seems to be silent, when prayer goes unanswered. Then we need to turn to the woman in the gospel. The more she is ignored the more dependent and confident in God she became. And if nothing else we can take a moment to follow her in prayer.
Her just cry to Jesus mirrors our prayer at the beginning of Mass, “ Lord have mercy”, and unlike Bruce’s letter, this is not a one off request, we need his mercy every moment of our lives and this is the prayer that beats through our whole day. He doesn’t ’need or want us to put on a presence performance. He, as the woman shows, wants the real us with all our faults, fears joys, loves and frustrations, so that there are no barriers, so that he can touch us, encounter us and heal us.
We can’t all be leaders but we can all be pleaders. We cannot all be mighty in rhetoric but we can all be prevalent in prayer.
I remember as a child we had the old electric bar fire and being told not to touch. Of course I touched the bar and let out a muffled scream. My mum hearing something came into the room asking what was wrong. Hand tightly clasped, holding back the tears, “nothing”, I said. If I had opened my hands, taken down the pretence, she would have put cream on my hand and eased the suffering. Jesus asks us to approach him in trust and humility, with hand open, showing him all the areas of our lives that need his healthy touch.
God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve. I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey ... I asked for health, that I might do great things. I was given infirmity, that I might do better things ... I asked for riches, that I might be happy. I was given poverty, that I might be wise ... I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God ... I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life. I was given life, that I might enjoy all things ... I got nothing I asked for—but everything I had hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among men, most richly blessed