Pray Like This is a seven-week Lenten series of art, prayer, and spiritual practices inspired by the Lord’s Prayer to help you reflect, pray and connect in the lead-up to Easter. Join Tearfund Update so you never miss out on our Lent series or other great content; inspiring partner stories, prayers, events and resources.
CB Samuel is a longtime friend of Tearfund and current Associate Fieldworker in India, who after many years as the head of Tearfund’s Indian partner EFICOR, now spends his time teaching and mentoring Christian leaders in India and around the world.
The terms ‘holy men’ and ‘holy women’ are not unfamiliar or uncommon here in India. We hear them often in reference to those who have abandoned worldly life or exercise extra-ordinary spiritual powers.
The Biblical use of the term holy, in contrast, refers to the character of God. The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples opens with three acknowledgements about God: His identity as Father, His power as one seated in the heavens and His character as Holy. Based on these acknowledgements we approach God with our requests.
In acknowledging God’s character as Holy, we who are imperfect also recognise our own need to be holy as God is holy. In his teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, after listing a series of characteristics that should mark his disciples, says ‘Be perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5:48). The prayer that Jesus taught, therefore, hinges on this very significant acknowledgement – Holy be your name. We approach a Holy God as a people who desire and pursue His holiness.
The God of the Bible, the Holy God... requires us to create an environment where human dignity is valued and allowed to flourish.
While the Biblical understanding of Holiness is both rich and exhaustive, I limit myself to just a few aspects for this reflection.
Holiness is the character of God and not a program of God. And since the God of the Bible reveals Himself in his engagement in human history, His holiness is expressed when He shows compassion and when He acts in justice. Isaiah says, ‘But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness’ (5:16). Our mission, our engagement, is an expression of our understanding of the holiness of God and of our character. It is therefore impossible to separate our character from our missional engagement. The leaders of Jesus’ time were rebuked by him as ‘whitewashed tombs’ who kept the outside clean but not the inside. Jesus asked his disciples to listen to such leaders but not practice what they do. God is lifted high in justice and His holiness is seen in acts of justice.
In Deuteronomy 23:12-14, the Israelites were asked to keep their camp holy; for ‘For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.’ While this is specifically related to the disposal of excrement, our Holy God expects us to ensure that when He moves in our midst, He does not see anything indecent. Extreme poverty and great economic inequality push the poor to live in inhuman – unholy – conditions. This is something that God cannot tolerate, and when we pray ‘Holy be your name’, he requires us to work with him for that holiness in places that contradict it. The God of the Bible, the Holy God, whose presence we desire in our homes and in our communities, requires us to create an environment where human dignity is valued and allowed to flourish.
Therefore, we acknowledge, Holy be your name, in the opening words of the Lord’s prayer.
Praise God for Jesus, who humbled himself to meet us in our unholiness, and makes us right before God through his sacrifice. Pray for a deepened understanding of this as we head towards Easter and remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Pray for Christians who are experiencing persecution because of their faith. In some regions where Tearfund’s partners are working, it is both hard and risky to be working as a Christian with a Christian organisation. Please pray for protection, encouragement and open doors for these partners to continue their work in communities facing poverty and injustice.
As the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt around the world, farmers in north-west India are already struggling due to unpredictable rainfall and extreme heat. Give thanks for Tearfund’s partner EFICOR, which is providing farmers with training in sustainable ways of farming to build their resilience to climate change.
Tearfund partners with several organisations in Bangladesh. Pray for those partners that have projects finishing up in 2023 – for a good end to the projects, and for communities that are ready to stand on their own. Pray also for Rohinyga refugee communities still living in crowded camps, separated from local communities, facilities and opportunities.
When one of our project officers visited Nepal last year, he saw how the work of our local partner Share and Care is encouraging girls to stay in school. One of the female students connected to the project shared: “Since I joined this group I have developed a learning attitude – now I am doing better in examinations. Before, I wasn’t aware of the importance of education. Now I attend school regularly and I care about my education.”
A breath prayer is a short simple sentence that can be said in the rhythm of an inhale and exhale breath, and prayed throughout the day. This contemplative prayer practice can be particularly helpful in times of busyness or stress. Sometimes the needs before us are so great, or confusing, that we can’t find the words to pray. It’s good to remember that, as Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
In practice, it’s simple: you can find a quiet spot, or use a breath prayer wherever you are. Pray one line as you slowly breathe in, and then one line as you slowly breathe out – and repeat. Your prayer could focus on who God is, a scripture, or ‘receiving and releasing’ – whatever words come to you, use the breath prayer to contemplate, rest and pray with your whole being.
(Inhale) Be still and know (Exhale) That I am God (Psalm 46:10)
Jesus I belong to you
I receive your peace And release my fear
The Lord is my Shepherd I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1)
The Lord reigns Let the earth be glad (Psalm 97:1)
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