How on earth do Christians talk about the future of the country together, let alone pray for it? Since we’re all so different in every other way, why wouldn’t we disagree about Brexit?
Churches generally, and ideally, contain people from a wide cross-section of different ages, stages, backgrounds and nationalities – and of course, political views. Jesus never promised we would have all the same views on things. After all, even the twelve disciples included completely opposing sides of the political spectrum.
We have probably each had an experience with someone whose views we really disagree with. Perhaps a relative, a neighbour or a colleague. On the whole, after that first inconvenient chat, we’re tempted to give them a wide berth if we possibly can, or just never go near the uncomfortable topic.
But people who follow Jesus tend to meet up every Sunday! And on top of that, the Bible calls us to pray ‘for kings and all those in authority’.
So, one chilly evening in late October, we grasped the nettle and said we would pray for the UK together at Ashington church.
We wanted to make sure we ‘agreed in prayer’ because we actually believe that prayer changes things (if you don’t believe me, bring an ailment to one of the Saturday healing sessions in Ashington). Of course, the great challenge was, how to pray honestly from the heart, but without irritating each other. For example, we couldn’t have one lot of people praying ‘Oh Lord, save us from Brexit’, while the others prayed ‘Oh Lord, save us from Europe’!
We didn’t want to waste valuable prayer time on ‘our particular variety of personal views on probable political solutions’, so we used it strategically, to invite God’s goodness into our country’s difficult situations. And by God’s goodness, we meant the Fruits of his Holy Spirit, which are described in the Bible: love, joy, peace; patience, kindness, goodness; and faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Regardless of our different political opinions, we agreed to pray that the Fruits of God’s Holy Spirit would appear more and more amidst this country’s physical and emotional turbulence.
We started simply by singing to Jesus in worship, which tends to help everything. One of the reasons for this is that when we’re receptive to Jesus – who is always with us, even though we don’t always notice it – we are more likely to end up being influenced by Him afterwards. And we’re therefore more likely to pray wiser and kinder and more relevant prayers than otherwise. (There are many other reasons to worship as well, but this will do for now.)
After worship, we stood around in a large circle and linked arms, partly because the heating was still cranking up (!), and because we wanted to express God’s love and unity between us even as we prayed. We also wanted to represent the unity and connection which God loves to bring across countries too. For a while we simply prayed however we wanted, just as it occurred to each individual.
Then, we split into groups of four or five people, and each group took a subject such as ‘education’, ‘health’ ‘infrastructure’, ‘parliament’, and so on. Then in our groups, we asked the Lord Jesus to show us specifically how He was wanting to bless these various areas, and spoke them out as a blessing all together.
There was something quite humbling and friendly about this, because it was a quiet recognition that we are ALL in need of much help. And that, regardless of political persuasion, we all need a lot more of God’s Holy-Spirit Fruits in our own lives and everywhere else.
In the Bible we read that God loves to do ‘immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’ and, as the Christmas story reminds us, ‘nothing is impossible with God’.
So, it was great to be able to pray for all sorts of people in authority without having to sound controlling, but rather just ask God to help them, especially at this challenging time.
This is the great thing about prayer. It cannot hurt, and we find it definitely helps. It’s a creative, positive way to respond to situations which could otherwise seem hopelessly intractable and far away.
And if prayer is unity in diversity, then more is definitely merrier!
So, our prayer session happened, and no one came to blows, and it wasn’t awkward at all.
Well, hardly at all…Next time we try praying for the UK, come soak up the friendly awkwardness with us.
We’ll even get the heating on!
Clare Backhouse is married to Stephen and they live in Ashington. Clare is a qualified nutritional therapist working
in West Sussex, having previously been a dress historian.