Image: These women are part of a Savings Group supported by Tearfund partner Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church. Aberash (far right) often relied on loans from high-interest money lenders to have what she needed to provide for her family. Now, she and the other women in the Savings Group are free from debt and enjoy financial stability. Praise God for groups like this, which many of Tearfund’s partners facilitate to support thousands of women and their families.
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Senior Pastor, East Doncaster Baptist Church
Rev Dr Deborah Storie lives and works on Wurundjeri Land. Deb enjoys a long association with Tearfund Australia with whom she served as a fieldworker and through Tearfund's Project Review Committee and Board. Now Senior Pastor at East Doncaster Baptist Church, Deb also lectures in Biblical Studies, and encourages Christians to engage God's Word in ways that inspire and equip us to do justice, love mercy and walk lightly on the earth.
I began to pray Jesus’ prayer differently while living among those for whom daily bread was not assured, from whom unavoidable debt stripped dignity and hope, and by whom the authorities were feared for good reason. When there was food in our village, no one went hungry—what food they had was always shared. When harvests failed, families borrowed to feed their children. Once in debt, they were trapped.
Those whom Jesus first taught to pray inhabited a similar reality. Daily bread, forgiven debts, freedom from unjust trial . . . These were realities for which they longed and prayed but, short of a miracle, did not expect to experience. Their already difficult situation was deteriorating. As land changed hands, often as the result of debt, it was repurposed to serve the appetites and interests of its new owners. Luxury and commercial crops displaced the subsistence crops that sustained local populations. Livelihoods of last resort – banditry, begging, prostitution, and collaboration with hostile forces – became more widespread. Roman and Herodian rule gave more to ‘the haves’ and took from ‘the have-nots’ what little they had (Luke 19:26).
For those of us who are well-served by financial and justice systems and for whom daily bread is assured, are often blind to the invidious interplay of debt, hunger and injustice. Are we equally blind to our complicity in these evils?
Australian households are highly indebted. As land and essential services changed hands, nationally and internationally, they are reoriented to serve the interests of their owners. Profits increase, eroding livelihoods, dignity and hope. Welfare and development agencies report that the already difficult situations of vulnerable communities are deteriorating. Choices of last resort – crime, begging, prostitution, trafficking and bonded labour, gambling and other addictions – are increasing. Now as then, the empires of this world give more to those who have and take from those who have not the little they had.
John Calvin is often credited with (or blamed for!) circumventing biblical prohibitions against usury on the grounds that debt is a lesser evil than slavery. Perhaps Calvin was unable to appreciate the intimate connections between debt and enslavement. For those of us who are well-served by financial and justice systems and for whom daily bread is assured, are often blind to the invidious interplay of debt, hunger and injustice. Are we equally blind to our complicity in these evils?
The prayer Jesus taught calls us to embrace the Jubilee vision of forgiven debts and of liberation from other forms of oppression... It invites us to renounce the sin of our ancestors, our leaders, and our society as well as our own individual failings. It invites us to turn towards and participate in God’s kingdom together.
In Biblical tradition, debt, indebtedness and debtors, sin, forgiveness and release are economic concepts with spiritual dimensions. Sin is often related to release denied – debts not forgiven, slaves not remitted, land not restored, fair wages not paid. Jesus claimed the Jubilee vision of Isaiah as his own (Luke 4:16–21 citing Isaiah 61:1–2; 58:6)!
The prayer Jesus taught calls us to embrace the Jubilee vision of forgiven debts and of liberation from other forms of oppression. The prayer Jesus taught is a collective prayer: Our Father. Give us this day. Forgive our debts . . . as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . Do not bring us to the time of trial . . . Rescue us . . . It invites us to renounce the sin of our ancestors, our leaders, and our society as well as our own individual failings. It invites us to turn towards and participate in God’s kingdom together.
Our Father, forgive us our debts as we forgive those indebted to us.
Give us eyes to see how debt entraps and ensnares.
Give us ears to hear the cries of those from whom debt has stripped dignity and hope.
Give us hearts that break with those who can see no way out.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, you proclaimed good news to the poor.
When we are blind to injustice, teach us to see.
When our lifestyles imprison others, teach us to celebrate Sabbath release.
When the systems that serve us oppress others, teach us to practice Jubilee.
Holy Spirit of God, anoint us for kingdom work.
Strengthen us to avoid debt that entraps and ensnares.
Strengthen us against powers and principalities that pursue profit at any cost
Strengthen us with the Jubilee vision of grace, forgiveness and release, deliverance and freedom, abundant life for all.
Praise God for Savings and Self-Help Groups, which many of Tearfund’s partners facilitate to support people, especially women, to overcome poverty.
More than 18 months on from the sudden change in government in Afghanistan in 2021, conditions continue to be very difficult for its people, in particular women and girls. In 2023, 28.3 million people (two thirds of Afghanistan’s population) will need urgent humanitarian assistance. Pray for the people of Afghanistan and give thanks for the great courage of Tearfund’s partners.
When floods hit Pakistan in June last year, the impact was catastrophic. Lali, whose hopes for a better future for her family were dashed when floods destroyed their cotton crops, said: “Our dreams also washed out with this flooding water. The impact of the flood will be remembered for generations.” While there is still floodwater in some areas of Pakistan, many areas have now dried up. As much as they are able, communities are beginning to rebuild. Pray for communities as they rebuild and recover, and for people mourning the loss of loved ones.
Since conflict broke out in Yemen more than eight years ago, one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises has developed there. Millions are suffering from the effects of armed violence, economic crisis and disrupted public services. It’s estimated that 21.6 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection services in 2023. In 2021, Tearfund Australia joined with Tearfund Germany to support part of its longer-term work in Yemen. This partnership is helping to restore water points in communities, promote health awareness and provide training in agriculture and livelihoods so that people can provide for their families.
The examen is a simple way of praying through your day. Often prayed at the end of the day, it’s a time to pause and reflect on God’s presence and the Spirit’s movement throughout the day, and the possible invitations in the midst of daily activity.
The examen encourages us to pay attention to the promptings of God that we may have missed, and the times we were less than Christ-like. This grants us an opportunity to receive again the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. The Examen has been practiced in different ways down through the years, but essentially involves a mix of gratitude, careful review, Godly sorrow, forgiveness, and renewing grace.
This ancient practice (first developed by St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) has been adapted into many different frameworks, but here’s a model based on the Lord’s Prayer. At the end of the day, pick a spot where you can be still for 15-20 minutes, use these questions to reflect back on your day and prayerfully respond:
Lead us not into temptation: What is a life-giving path that God is inviting you to walk on? What armour has he equipped you with?
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