Image: Women experiencing something of the stillness and presence of Creator God’s kingdom on a Healing Journey, part of Strong Women Talking’s program that aims to break cycles of violence.
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Founder and Director, Strong Women Talking
Sono Leone, a Garrawa and Butchulla woman, is the founder and CEO of Strong Women Talking, a Tearfund partner delivering culturally sensitive domestic violence workshops to First Nations women in the Brisbane area.
I have memories, growing up, of the Lord’s Prayer being something that the priest would give you as an absolution for your sins. You'd go in and repent of your sins, and then the priest would give, you know, four Hail Mary’s, and so many Our Fathers, and you'd have to say them. So from a young age it had more of a religious context. It didn't really have personal meaning for me, until I started having a personal relationship with the Lord at the age of 24. And then I had my own personal revelation of that prayer from the Lord, around praying ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done.’
As I’ve thought about what earth looks like with God's kingdom here, God has spoken to me: it looks like his will being done in my life. Think about the body of Christ: we're all different parts of the body. And everyone has a special part to do for God's kingdom to come here on earth. And how would you know what that is? By knowing what God's will is for your life. God really clearly showed me from early on in my walk with him, that by reading his word, by communicating with him, by inviting the Holy Spirit in, God will talk to you and show you what his perfect will is for your life. It doesn't mean it's an easy road. We won’t experience full restoration until we go home to Jesus. But what does restoration look like? What does wholeness look like for God's kingdom here on earth, and what's our part to play in that? The only way we'll know that is by knowing God's will for our life and the only way we're going to know God's will for our life is by meditating on his word by drawing nearer to him.
My prayer life is always ‘not my will, but your will Lord’. You can get an idea and then lay it down at the cross, lay it down at Jesus’ feet and ask the Father, ‘is this your will? And if this isn't your will, then…’ If God told me tomorrow to leave something that I was really invested in, if God through his Spirit spoke to me very clearly and then through His Word and through worship, prayer, meditation with him, time with him, said to me “No, this isn't this isn't my will for your life anymore” then that's something I'd have to be able to surrender.
If we relied on our own flesh, or our own insecurities we'd give up on things. But if we're pushing into the Father's will he leads us.
When Jesus says Your kingdom come, Your will be done, it's a call on us to be following the will of God, wherever He leads us. It calls us to question if we trust the will of the Father more than you trust our own will. For example, with Strong Women Talking, every time it gets uncomfortable, I just keep pushing into God more and more to check ‘is this your will?’. And then, you know, something opens. If we relied on our own flesh, or our own insecurities we'd give up on things. But if we're pushing into the Father's will he leads us.
God talks so much about the widow and orphan. Jesus broke the mould when he spoke to women. He demonstrates a heart for broken women, the fatherless and the orphans. In the context of Strong Women Talking, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’ motivates us to help the women experience God's love in this place. I believe they do experience that, even if they can’t articulate it as such – they might describe it as something else, they might say this has just got the most amazing presence or the most peaceful feeling, or this is such a beautiful space… but I know every person that walks in here feels the love of God. We want women to experience God's love and understand the way God sees them, that he has a plan and a purpose for every woman. His will isn't for women to be battered and abused. But it happens. God's will is for women to experience love and nurture, and kindness and goodness, and to know how loved and valued they are and how special they are unique. God has always cared for those on the margins. He sat with the people that were not considered much in society. That’s what earth would look like if God's kingdom were here: people wouldn't be hungry, they wouldn't be homeless; mothers and children would be reunited and families restored.
I'm seeing miracles happen where things weren't possible, but they happen because of God's grace.
As Aboriginal people we know the spiritual realm is real. We understand that there are spiritual strongholds that are faced when praying for God's will. For example, if a lady needs housing and she's impacted by trauma when she comes into the Healing Journey, God's will isn't for her to be homeless. So we pray according to what his Word says: that he cares about even the sparrows and that they won't worry for anything. He cares for their needs, so we pray, Lord, Your will be done; Father, you bring about a house for her, you bring favour in the Department of Housing. And then we just see little miracles happen! Doors open up!
I'm seeing miracles happen where things weren't possible, but they happen because of God's grace. Even in funding: we prayed into that, and we ended up partnering with Tearfund; that was our very first seed funding. I'm very aware of God working in those situations, or God moving to work a miracle to reunite a baby with her mum, or when a woman is breaking a cycle of going back into an abusive relationship. Where she's getting restored and she's feeling whole and she knows her worth and she feels valued. We definitely see God’s will and kingdom come as more women are restored.
Pray for Strong Women Talking and all the women who will be impacted through their work this year. Strong Women Talking have just commenced a new program of Healing Journey Workshops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women recovering from violence and trauma. Please pray for the staff of Strong Women Talking as they lead these workshops and for all the women participating.
Tearfund’s partner Nungalinya College, a training college for Indigenous Christians, will begin a new intake of students studying the Faith and Family Wellbeing Course this month. Please pray that the students will grow in knowledge and skill to support themselves and others with regard to personal wellbeing and violence prevention.
Pray for Christians in Australia to mobilise for a more just and equitable society for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The referendum around a First Nations Voice to Parliament is an opportunity to take a significant step on the path towards justice for First Nations people. Pray for humility and grace to listen to each other, and hope together for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
If you’ve ever experienced the refreshment that comes from a walk around the block in the middle of a work day, you’ll know the kind of spiritual refreshment that can come with a prayer walk. This practice can bring focus and energy to your prayers, and is particularly helpful for praying over a certain location (like your neighbourhood) or for a certain issue (like climate justice). Sometimes just changing the location or posture in which you spend time with God can help bring new insight and ‘open up the conversation’.
It’s as simple as it sounds: you pray and walk! On your own, or with a walking/praying buddy (or a small group broken into pairs), pick a route and pray as you walk along it. Wherever you walk, pay attention to what’s around you and let it inspire your prayers – a walk around the block might lead you to pray for your neighbours; a walk in your favourite nature reserve could prompt prayers for the environment and for people most impacted by climate change; a walk in a busier part of the community might inspire prayers for particular groups within the community, or local government leaders, or upcoming events. Find out the Traditional Custodians of the land you will be walking on, and use some of these resources from Common Grace to pray for First Nations people. This resource from 24-7 Prayer suggests using WALK as an acronym to shape your prayer walk: Worship, Ask, Listen and Know your land. However you choose to engage in this practice, remember that you walk alongside Jesus, whose invitation is to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Join us at a Tearfund prayer event this March to pray for our world, Tearfund’s local partners and for the global hunger crisis.
With both in-person and livestream options available in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, this is an exciting opportunity to practise corporate prayer together and cry out for our world in the midst of a global hunger crisis.Register here
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