Integrating Prayer and Justice
As people of faith, our work for justice must be inspired by prayer. Likewise, our prayer must be infused with concern for others.
When we pray, we experience God and we remember that he is in us and in all people, who are created in his image and have inherent dignity. If we want to live as faithful citizens, we must know how to come to God in prayer, experience God in ourselves and others, and listen to the ways God is calling us to respond.
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Nine Ways to Integrate Prayer and Justice
Try out all of these ways to pray as a faithful citizen as well as other creative ideas you might think of. Then try the ones that work best for you again and again – make them a practice in your daily life so that you can be a just pray-er and a faithful citizen!
Look through a print or online newspaper to find a news article about an issue mentioned in Faithful Citizenship
. Cut out (or print out) the article and bring it with you to a quiet place where you can pray. Think about how human dignity is affected by the issue or situation. Pray for God’s healing and transformation for all people impacted, lawmakers, and citizens like yourself. Ask God how he is asking you to respond to this issue.
Read slowly one of the following Gospel readings: John 5:1-15
; Luke 8:40-56
; Mark 1:40-45
; or Mt. 20:29-34
. Then read it again, imagining that you are the character in the story with whom Jesus interacts. Imagine how it would be to be in that character’s place. How do you feel before you meet Jesus? How do you feel physically (what do all five senses experience in that time and place?), emotionally, and spiritually? What happens when you encounter Jesus? What is that experience like? Imagine every detail of the story. Next, imagine the story again in your mind, but this time, substitute a modern-day person, for example, someone who is homeless or a person who is sick with cancer but has no health insurance. Let this exercise lead you into prayer for the real people who are suffering in the world. Pray for justice and for realization of your role in making justice a reality.
Prayerfully read a quote from one of the following Church statements and then copy words and phrases that are meaningful to you into your prayer journal. Write about what strikes you about the quote and how it relates to you personally. Pray for understanding and the grace to respond to God’s call. Quotes:
- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, # 9, 10
- Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), # 16, 18
- Economic Justice for All, # 28, 87
- Justice in the World,# 34, 51
- Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), # 26-27, 30
- Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), # 157-9
This acronym stands for A
hanksgiving, and S
upplication. You can use the acronym to help you pray for issues you care about and for help in acting as a faithful citizen.
: Praise God for his love for humanity, and for creating each human being with dignity. Express wonder for life and beauty, and the basic goodness of human beings.
: Express your sorrow for an issue – a collective or social sin of humanity – that is facing the world today. This could include poverty, abortion, environmental destruction, or another issue mentioned in Catholic social teaching. Take a moment to also recognize how you may have participated in the collective sin or issue, perhaps by your failure to do something about it.
: Thank God for his forgiveness and for maintaining hope in the world and in humans despite our failures. Express thanks for the talents that God has given humans and the inspiration to use these talents to address issues like the one you have mentioned.
: Supplication is another word for intercession, or asking. Ask God to help bring about a positive solution to the issue you have identified – for an end to the social injustice. Ask him to help you see how you are called to be involved in addressing the issue. Invite the Spirit into your heart to inspire you.
For many of the holiest people in history, listening was a major part of their prayer. To practice Just Listening, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for 10-15 minutes. Sit or kneel in a comfortable, upright position. Take several deep breaths and be aware of the air coming in and out of your lungs and notice the quiet around you. Ask God what he would like to tell you and the world about the social issues you are concerned about. Try to sense God’s love and other feelings for you, your community and the world. You may wish to sit in stillness, or you might try writing down what you think God might be saying to you and to your community/world.
In a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, read slowly one of the following readings from the Old Testament: Jer. 1:4-10
; or Is. 58
. In silence, prayerfully consider the following questions: What stands out to you about the reading? What was God saying to his people through the prophet? What might the reading mean for the world today? Are you open to being a modern day prophet? What message might God be calling you to proclaim? Ask God to be with you and to guide you as you reflect on these questions. Pray for the strength to respond to whatever God might be asking of you.
Using a shoe box or another similarly-sized box, create your own personal prayer box. You may choose to cover your box with paper or decorate it in some way, or you can simply leave it plain. On small slips of paper, write issues about which you are concerned as a faithful citizen. You might choose some issues from Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
(e.g. death penalty, euthanasia, war, etc.), for example. Put the papers inside the box. During your prayer time each day, pick one or two slips of paper out of the box and pray for those impacted by injustices related to the issues, for policymakers, and for the ability to listen to how God might be calling you to respond.
Seeing God in the poor and vulnerable can help move you to work for justice. Make a special effort to arrange to spend time with a vulnerable population – for example, you could visit the elderly in a nursing home or serve food at a homeless shelter. Before you serve, ask God to be with you and to help you to recognize his presence in every person with whom you interact. During your service, be especially attentive to God’s presence in each person you serve, and the dignity that is in each of them. You might want to try saying a short prayer before you speak with different persons or serve food (for example, “God, be with this person who is made in your image”). After your service time is over, go to a quiet place and think about the ways you saw God in each person. Try to remember details about individuals that you met. Ask for God’s blessing on each and then ask God how he might be calling you to work to address the root causes of the challenges they face.