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Reflections on the Global Prayer Gathering Part 1: Because Prayer Matters

By Kevin Dixon, Vice President of Operations

I’m still feeling a little "high” after my first experience of IJM’s Global Prayer Gathering in Washington, DC last weekend.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew more than 1,400 people would be attending the event. I’d seen video clips of previous GPGs, so I knew the worship would be uplifting, the singing heartfelt, and the speakers compelling. But I didn’t expect the experience of prayer to be so… well, gripping. By gripping I mean an experience with so much traction. It was an experience of prayer that really sticks to the road, that has its sneakers firmly planted, that digs in when the way gets slippery.

I have to admit, I was in an appraising frame-of-mind when I arrived at the GPG. Sure, everybody involved with International Justice Mission is concerned about the rampage of violence against the poor in the developing world, but how coherently would a theology of prayer - shoved up against the harsh realities of forced labour slavery, sexual violence, and sex trafficking- be expressed at this event?

My mind was set at ease as soon as I heard Gary Haugen, Founder and President of IJM, offer his welcoming address. He’s a smart guy. And faithful, too. He talked about how prayer matters. He said prayer matters in a couple of ways. One is in the sense that prayer is something we might value or even cherish, like truth or beauty or justice. But, more than this, prayer matters, like fuel in the tank matters, if our car is going to reach its destination.

Gary talked about causality: the causal relationship between the act of prayer and the fulfillment of God’s desire, expressed time and again in scripture, for a world characterized by justice with peace. He remarked that God could conceivably impose divine will on the world and make it more just (which would raise a whole lot of questions about humankind’s free will), but instead God involves humans in God’s gigantic rescue project. In this way, we take greater responsibility for the task of restoring the world to what God intends it to be. Prayer is a cause that effects action in which we participate.

Gary didn’t say it, but I found myself thinking about Augustine’s words, "Pray as though everything depends on God, work as though everything depends on you.” When I went into the prayer rooms at the GPG and heard about the work of IJM’s eighteen field offices in the developing world, and joined in prayer for what is needed there, I thought Augustine would be pleased with how we, who support IJM, have shouldered our responsibility to participate in God’s rescue mission.

And being in a big room with 1,400 people praying for God’s will to be done was deeply moving, too. It moved me like fuel in my tank. It gave me a better grip on how IJM accomplishes its part in fulfilling God’s mission. It affirmed how very much prayer matters: to discern what God is moving us to do as participants in IJM’s work.

I think I’ll go to the Global Prayer Gathering again next year. Between now and then, however, there’s a lot of work to do if all those prayers are to be answered.

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