Life has taught me that people talk about each other. At its worst, this is manifested in gossip that is more rooted in rumour than fact. At its best, it is expressed in the words of admiration and inspiration that we feel for persons whose lives are marked by wisdom and just actions. St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, makes it clear that people were talking about the Ephesian Christians. It is also evident that these Christians inspired others with their faith and actions.
Our faith life, and our life of Christian action to build a better world, are inseparable. At the heart of our prayer life is a desire to receive the grace of God to sustain and strengthen us as we build God’s reign on earth. Prayer is not so much about what we want, but what we need. Too many times, we ask God to deliver something we want, or deliver us from a challenge or hardship. Although these have a certain beauty to them, at its core prayer is about placing our souls in the direct presence of the Divine and seeking sustenance for life. For many, it truly is a matter of seeking the grace we need to survive, and possibly thrive in the face of hardship and challenge. For many others, it is seeking the wisdom and grace needed to continue the work of bringing justice to those who are maligned, oppressed and downtrodden.
Prayer to feed our justice work breaks us away from prayer as a simply pietistic and self-serving. We move toward a prayer life that is about making all things better. We want the world to be a better place, both for ourselves and for those who suffer injustice and oppression. Rooted in Christ’s love, we become a people who can leave a mark on this world for the better. Separated from Christ’s love, we risk simply leaving a stain on this world.
Hence, it can be offered that all prayer is for action. Through prayer we connect with the source of our being and nourish our souls for the work ahead of us. In this way, people can see the good we do, and give glory to God. This is because our faith and actions can be spoken of, not for our own aggrandisement, but as a beacon to reveal the difference God makes in our lives and our commitment to justice for all. It was probably such faith witness that inspired people to speak highly of the faith of the Ephesians. In a sense, they must have been true witnesses to faith in the resurrected Christ and sought to rise above their own hardships and commit to helping others rise up as well. This is possible for each of us when prayer takes a central place in our lives. This Lent, may our prayer life increase, may our charity abound, and may we rise above all that drags us down from witnessing to the glory that is God.
And so, we offer this prayer for all who seek to rise up and model the hope we find in the resurrected Christ.
A Prayer for Justice
Source of all hope and transformation,
we are your people.
Be with us as we continue to rise
from, through, and for the work of justice.
As we approach you in prayer,
empower us to lift up voices too often silenced and unheard.
Send us your spirit of wisdom,
to guide our hearts and minds to be open to your words being spoken and heard.
Send us your spirit of resistance and strength,
that we may speak the truth,
even when it challenges and is hard to hear.
Shatter our fragility,
or any reticence that could keep us from witnessing to truth,
and receiving your grace with open and discerning hearts.
And when your grace fills us,
may we rise up!
Stand up! Speak out!
And when we are the ones with power,
and when necessary,
May we do this in service,
to the great rising of all who are oppressed.
As we seek justice, let us be just.
So that our children can someday
teach us the ease with which we can live,
and without all that keeps us from being
a united family for each other.
We ask this in the name of the One who has risen,
and the ones who rose
and resisted with Him throughout history. Amen.
Michael Way Skinner is a retired Coordinator of Religion, Family Life and Equity with the York Catholic District School Board. He was a contributing author to World Religions: A Canadian Catholic Perspective, and co-authored There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere (Novalis, 2020) with his wife, Christine Way Skinner. Michael is a public speaker and award-winning educator who is deeply committed to faith as a source for inclusion and justice.