LONDON – Christians in the United Kingdom will unite this week with fellow believers around the world in praying for an end to global poverty.
As part of Tearfund’s Global Poverty Prayer Week, Feb. 23-March 1, churches are calling out with one voice for God’s intervention in areas affected by poor sanitation and lack of clean water, climate change, and high rates of HIV among other challenges.
Christians will also pray for disaster relief and the impact of the local church in places of need.
“Is it his world in our hands, or is it our world in his hands?" said Tearfund Chief Executive Matthew Frost.
"Whichever way you look at it, God has invited us to be part of restoring this fallen, broken, beautiful world. He has given us the privilege of partnership. And we know that he answers prayer."
Prayer requests have been received from Cambodia, Uganda, Haiti, Myanmar and Darfur, among other countries.
"The impact of the world recession is a thread that links many of them," according to a recent Tearfund statement.
Frost pointed to a recent prayer effort which saw thousands of Tearfund supporters joining with others around the world in prayer for people living in the Democratic Republic of Congo under the regime of rebel leader General Nkunda.
"We prayed that God would move in his heart after his army had defeated the country’s army in vast areas around the eastern city of Goma," said Frost. "We were concerned for the 250,000 people who had been made homeless as a result of his rebel uprising. We took it to God in prayer, alongside those who were suffering and oppressed, and cried out for justice.
"Soon afterwards, the rebel group unexpectedly split, lessening Nkunda’s power, and then last week Nkunda himself was arrested by Rwandan troops."
Supporters of the Global Poverty Prayer Week include Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and worship leader Tim Hughes who share their prayer ideas in a DVD.
Young Christians are also getting behind the initiative by holding 24/7 prayer chains and setting up creative prayer spaces. Jo Herbert, Tearfund’s National Youth Work Assistance, said the response from young people had been “overwhelming.”
“For me the excitement is in getting hundreds of young people up and down the country in prayer rooms for a week talking to God about justice. They can’t not be changed as a result,” she said.
“I don’t think you can come before God and ask him how he feels about the injustices of this world and not be changed because it is something that burns so passionately in his heart and we see throughout the Bible that God is for the poor the oppressed and the marginalized.”
Frost added, "We know that praying about global poverty issues and world events does have an impact, both on our own lives as well as to others. God is at work in this world, and it’s exciting to be part of it!"
Tearfund is part of a broad coalition of aid agencies telling G20 leaders that only just, fair and sustainable policies will be able to see the world through the recession.
The message comes ahead of the G20 summit where top advanced and emerging economies will discuss the global economic crisis on April 2.
The coalition, which also includes World Vision and Christian Aid, is organizing a major demonstration in central London on March 28. The "Put People First" march will head through Westminster and culminate in a rally at Hyde Park.
In a joint statement, the coalition said that the only sustainable way to rebuild the economy is to create a fair distribution of wealth that would provide decent jobs and public services for all, end global inequality and build a low carbon future.
“Recession must not be an excuse for putting off action for global justice or to stop climate chaos,” they said.
Tearfund Advocacy Director Paul Cook said the Church was being mobilized locally and globally to respond to the needs of people losing their livelihoods in the downturn and those living in poor communities where the impact of climate change is already being felt.
“World leaders must now work to ensure that failed systems are re-structured to fairly accommodate the poor in society. In a biting recession developing countries are hit even harder,” he said.
Tearfund and other church groups will hold an ecumenical church service at Central Hall, Westminster, on March 28. The congregation will then join the main march as it moves through Westminster and heads to Hyde Park.