The snowdrops in my garden were in full bloom before I had even noticed. Last year, after my Mum had planted them I was watching much more carefully – noticing the tiny shoots as first signs of spring after the winter. This year we had much more snow – a thick blanket covering the bulbs entirely but there was still growth happening underground and the snowdrops seem very healthy.
Chris Kilby talked about watching in a garden for signs of growth in his days as an experimental gardener – I think with radishes in particular. He used it as an example in chapter four of his book ‘Equipped’ which aims to be a practical book encouraging Christians to talk to others about their faith. Chapter four is about prayer and starts with the reminder to talk to Jesus about your neighbours before you talk to your neighbours about Jesus. I was leading our study looking at chapter four this week, and was particularly struck by the verse in Colossians 4 which says:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4 v 2)
The more famous verse in the Bible is perhaps where Jesus asks Peter, James and John to watch and pray (Matthew 26 v 41), but the point we discussed on Wednesday was how if we pray about something, then we care about it more, and we watch out for things happening, and then we pray more, in a kind of cycle.
Last month I was at a worship and prayer meeting when we got onto the theme of praying for freedom for people in different areas of their lives. I felt quite strongly that another related thing we could pray about would be for release for people caught up in modern day slavery and human trafficking. I suggested it as a possibility to the meeting leader and he agreed that would be one direction we could go but he was also weighing other words and possibilities. I didn’t mind too much but did feel quite strongly that I should personally be praying on that topic.
I prayed with a fervency that rarely comes to me. I prayed about people caught up in slavery around the world and in Birmingham. I prayed for police and others investigating human trafficking, that their operations would be successful and that people would be freed. I prayed for changes of heart in the people guarding them. I prayed that neighbours and local people would notice things that weren’t right and would report them. I prayed for breakthrough and justice. I prayed for restoration and wholeness. And I ended up feeling strongly like God was going to do something, and that I should watch the news.
This had been on Tuesday evening, and on Friday morning this story was reported in local and national news. On the Thursday, after a coordinated operation involving multiple agencies, five people in Birmingham had been rescued from modern slavery and thirteen people had been arrested. Some of the roads mentioned are local roads I know well.
How can I respond to something like this, except to want to pray more? If I pray for someone from the safety of a local church, and people are set free from actual slavery – it doesn’t feel like coincidence. If I pray for someone to be healed and they experience actual physical breakthrough – a reduction in pain or increased movement or a noticeable lightness, why am I not praying for people to be healed all the time? In fact, even when people I prayed for have not been healed, I have been surprised by how positively they have responded in appreciating the care I have shown or my willingness to do something because of my faith. But mostly I have found that when I have spent some time in praying and worshipping God, and then seek to follow his prompting, God does something.
I talked before about Jordan Seng’s 4 key points in his equation of moving in more of God’s miraculous power to heal or deliver: Obedience + Faith + Gifting + Consecration = Power. I think I’ve been talking about obedience (in the listening and seeking to follow God’s prompting) and consecration (taking time to worship and pray, and fasting goes here too, if Lent is something you are observing at the moment). Mainly in Lent I have decided to pray more rather than doing anything else less – so please let me know how I can pray for you. And then watch and see the signs of God at work.