Prayers and poverty
How can we better understand what it means to live in poverty?
A church leader sent a list of prayer requests of guests served at a community dinner for the poor. These prayers reveal many of the unique issues people face living in poverty.
• We don’t want to get kicked out of our home. Hope we can stay there. My friend is too weak to be on the streets again.
• Pray that I don’t have to live in a tent.
• Pray that my pregnant girlfriend will take better care of herself for the baby’s sake. She’s bipolar and off her meds and is acting crazy.
Estimates place the number of people in poverty nationwide at 17% to 18%. In the city I live, the rate is 24%. In other words, nearly one in four families near me are living in poverty. That’s a lot of folks living day by day under very difficult circumstances. They need support.
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor.’ Well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?” (James 2:1-4)
It took me awhile to understand this refers to more than “who gets the best seats in church.” A subtle way to ignore the needs of the poor is to just avoid meaningful contact, “You can stand over there or else sit on the floor” can also mean, “You can live on the other side of town.” There is a word for ignoring the needs of the poor. Sin. How can we claim faith in Christ if we judge those in poverty?
• My son is completely disabled and on life support at home. He has few visitors and would really appreciate it if someone could come and pray for him.
• Pray for me. I have high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
• Pray for Mom’s health issues. One agency, supporting those experiencing chronic homelessness identifies several ways to help.
— Basic Needs – Free meals, clothes, cold weather shelter, toiletries, laundry and showers
— Community Resources – DMV, social services, veteran’s affairs, local churches
— Health – includes check-ups, medication and prescription needs
— Mental Health – includes addiction and counseling assessments
— Housing – search and placement, financial assistance, supportive services
— Income – job connections, trial work experiences, employment search assistance
— Education – GED and high school diploma coaching, coordination with job training
— Support System – a caring community for those without lifelines or support
So, improving income or providing basic needs alone is no guarantee for breaking the strong bonds of poverty. In fact, improving income alone can complicate matters. Often, for every extra dollar earned, there is a corresponding dollar of benefits taken away. Breaking the bonds of poverty is complex, requiring a lot of discipline and dedication from everyone involved.
One former homeless person said it well.
“The broken spirits we encounter can take a really long time to heal, but we like to think the services, relationships and hope available through our doors is the very thing that can overcome the most insurmountable odds to put the pieces back together again.”
• Pray for two friends who attend our dinner but have been absent. God’s protection over them.
• Pray for my friend’s baby, that he is healthy and everything goes good in the delivery room. Also, to have everything we need when he comes.
• That in everything, I will not let my circumstances move my eyes from the glory of Christ and the cross. Plus, me and my son will be reunited soon.
“Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor. Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear.” (James 2:5-7)
Nine prayer requests give us a glimpse at understanding poverty. Will you join me in praying for the people who made these requests? Can we do better when it comes to helping people living in poverty? Can we become more personally involved in helping our brothers and sisters in need?
REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.