The Spirit of Protest: a ‘Nelson Mandela moment’?

Jun 5, 2020 | PRAY, Prayer Focus for the Nations

Do not be angry, O LORD, beyond measure; do not remember our iniquity forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray; we are all Your people! Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, has been burned with fire, and all that was dear to us lies in ruins. (Is. 64:9-11 BSB)

Yes, Lord, many indeed have had that which was most dear to them taken away from them, whether family, friends or income flow, leaving them feeling as as in the verse above as though they have been plunged into a wilderness.

When the prophet calls us to ‘prepare the way’ in Isaiah 62:10 bty removing the stones and obstacles , the verb panah, means ‘to turn, to face.’

Lord, we are asking for a great increase in the number of people who are turning to face You – as well as facing square on the injustice that is being laid bare by events around the world.

As we were watching the memorial service for George Floyd we have referred to elsewhere (amazingly, it was given well over an hour and a half of uninterrupted coverage on the BBC), I had a hauntingly moving vision of a young African boy who was brought as a slave to America; a symbol of so much oppression and repression.

Later I had a very different picture. This time I was seeing images of great excesses by the New York Police Department in their brutal ‘third degree’ treatment of people in their charge, going back many years; white as well as black.

Britain also has much to repent of in this respect in the ways by which we ave encouraged the use of similar police brutality in countries it once ruled, such as India.

It is the hope of very many that this time the concerns that have been expressed will not just simply fizzle out, but that real and lasting change may be effected, from tip to toe in the nation.

Yes, Lord, bring lasting good and justice from these protests, we pray; measures that will address many long-term failings in our respective justice systems. Where there are serious issues to face up to, and protests that need to be heard (and let’s not forget climate change matters) raise up people who will campaign on those matters, effectively – and in time.

At the same time, we must face the fact that demonic forces are seeking to ride in on the back of these protests; ‘welly-ing in,’ as Sally Mowbray put it, exploiting genuine grievances in order to generate anarchy.

Understandably, many have been accusing President Trump of being not only the least willing, but also the least able President in America’s history to unite the country. Unsurprisingly, strong forces are now swirling around the White House, fired by angry spirits targeting the administration. Against them stand the President’s own defiantly nationalistic support base.

Lord, we ask You to restrain and confound both the forces that are pursuing anarchy on the one hand, and intense nationalism on the other. At this time when American unemployment rates have soared in the space of just a few weeks from an historic low to an all-time high, send Your angelic battalions to hold in check the forces or lawlessness and the high-level powers of darkness that would seek to hijack this unrest for very dark purposes. Keep these evil spirits from winning the day. Cause footholds to slide out from under them, and every talon to lose its grip on its prey.

An aside to the reader

Time Magazine published an in-depth analysis some years ago, that President Trump had made a very deliberate attempt to woo and win the evangelical base in the country. See my article from early 2017.  It is likely that a good many evangelical Christians will be thinking again as a result of his disappointing response to George Floyd’s death.

You will very likely have seen this clip of an interview with the Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

The bishop made it very clear that President Trump did not appear outside her church in order to pray. She was deeply upset that he failed entirely to provide hope, or consolation, or, in short, to do anything to unite or encourage the heart of the nation.

(Here is the full version of her interview with CNN.)

It is not surprising after watching that many conclude that brandishing a Bible in this way for a photo opportunity falls fair and sqaure into the category of the sort of hypocritical act Jesus denounced the Pharisees so strongly for.

Whatever your feelings about that, now that the economic prowess which President Trump depended on for ongoing support as a populist leader has so dramatically faltered, he himself will be severely off balance. As such he is likely to become still more erratic and unpredictable. May the Lord corral what he says and what he does, not least with regard to the election in November. May there be no unrighteous attempt to postpone or cancel it, or to impose arbitrary or tyrannical laws.

By contrast, may the Lord bless those who are protesting in a prayerful peaceful spirit – as in this clip that has inspired many people.

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