This past month has been really difficult for me. It was building up since before the Brexit vote, but that tipped the scales. I’ve been worrying about even watching the news, wondering what horrible event will happen next. I’ve been upset with the political situations in Britain, Turkey, America, and the middle east. Upset about the violence, murder and persecution of people all around the world. I’ve been trying to pray for those killed and hurt in attacks, not just in Europe, not just those splashed across the newspapers in our country, but the forgotten and ignored tragedies in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries.
But I’m overwhelmed. On top of the exhaustion that comes to every teacher at the end of the school year, I want to yell at God…”STOP THE WORLD…AND LET ME GET OFF!” I’ve not been sure how to cope at all.
And it was in this state that I set up the ‘Day of Prayer for our Nation’ on Facebook. (Join me here if you still want to pray). That did help a lot. In searching the Bible for guidance and when a wonderful friend offered to help, we remembered our response to this world is to pray and to share God’s love. Praying through those prayers as the day went on, really helped calm my troubled soul…and continue to do so.
It is so important to include people with learning disabilities in our engagement with what is going on in the world. They worry too. They hear and are affected by what is going on, sometimes more directly than we are. (Take the Government’s welfare reforms as an example). We can pray with them and give them access to praying with us if we help their communication. The accessible prayers are just one example. Signing or pictures may help some. I know L’Arche communities are wonderfully experienced in building the prayer lives of everyone in their communities.
On the Wednesday, at our usual Good News Group meeting we set aside some time to pray for our nation, using the accessible prayers that I had made for the Friday. Each table had a set and the members and carers each chose a prayer to offer, in our usual ways of either reading it out themselves, a team member reading it for them or just by placing it in the centre of the table, showing that they are offering their prayers to God.
Everyone there took a prayer and offered it to the Lord. What really struck me was their real concerns and worries about Brexit and all that was happening. People with learning disabilities hear things on the news and worry the same as the rest of us, we shouldn’t be surprised. They too want to make sense of it all. The comments I want to share with you show how much they care about this.
D, who isn’t a Christian but comes to the group every week, was really fascinated by the prayers we had set out on the table. He said “I’m really glad you’ve put these out. I don’t believe but I want you to pray about this…” and he passed a card to one of the team to pray.
V said “I’ve been hearing about all this on the news. It’s terrible. What’s going to happen, I don’t know.” and she chose a prayer for all the politicians.
E said, “I’m worried about what will happen to my carer. She’s not from this country. I’m scared they are going to take her away, then who’s going to help me then? She’s lovely is my carer. I don’t want another one.”
And all around the room, people with learning disabilities were joining in as prayer warriors for this nation. Lord hear our prayers. Lord have mercy. Lord hear our prayers.
I’m hoping that others have joined us too. I sent out the accessible prayers to a few people who asked for them, so if you were one of those, I’d love to hear how your prayer times went.
I feel that God has been sending me encouragement this week in two blogs I have read. I am sharing them here and hope that if you feel overwhelmed and discouraged they will help you too. Firstly Anthony Delany reminded me of the parable Jesus told us about how we should know that there is evil in this world. God is allowing the weeds and the wheat to grow in the ground together but he will protect his wheat and burn the weeds at the harvest. It helped me. And then Helen Murray encouraged me by reminding me of how Gideon felt when God asked him to fight the Midionites – and to go in the strength that we have because God is with us. Thank you both.