The World in Prayer team member who wrote this week’s prayers has spent the past 6 weeks catching, taming, and finding homes for a litter of feral kittens. It has, she says, definitely affected how she understands God, and how she prays for the world. “You’ll have to forgive me,” she writes, “if these prayers are rather – well – kitten-shaped.”
I. Courtship. They appeared in my yard, the terrified but oh-so-proud young mama cat, and her four just-starting-to-explore adorable kittens. Me, I spent long hours sitting absolutely still. Marveling. Waiting. For them to get used to my scent. For them to get used to my presence. For them to get used to my voice.
And I thought with awe – and wonder – and thanksgiving – about God. Our God, who loves us with such patient adoration. Waiting, for us to notice God with us. Waiting for us to abandon fear, for curiosity. Waiting for us to dare to approach. Waiting for us to dare to be loved.
Holy and loving God, we adore you and we praise you, because you love with infinite patience even those that the world despises, ignores, or rejects:
- The Oromo – the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, where unrest has spread after the death and funeral of 34-year-old singer Hachalu Hundessa. His songs advocating their rights have become anthems in a wave of protests in that country.
- More than 40,000 impoverished people have been evicted from their homes since March in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, primarily in communities already displaced by violence, droughts, or floods.
- Strawberry pickers brought from Morocco to Spain are not considered essential workers, and are not being provided even the most basic hygiene needed to protect them against the new coronavirus.
- Sex workers in Thailand (more than 125,000 of them, from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam), as well as in Bangladesh (an estimated 100,000) – have been jobless and facing abuse from their dissatisfied brokers since the coronavirus pandemic forced bars and other entertainment venues to close. For many, this illegal work is the only way they can survive and provide for their children.
- According to the United Nations, the pandemic is reversing progress on ending child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). An additional 13 million girls could be married off and 2 million more could undergo FGM in the next decade, beyond what would have been expected.
- Indigenous Amazon communities in Brazil, who have no immunity to external diseases and whose communal lifestyle rules out social distancing – and who are not receiving adequate help during the pandemic from the Brazilian government.
II. Trapping. I put out food. Each day, moving a little bit closer. Each day, with breath held, waiting for them to come eat. Then the food went into the cat carrier, and if they wanted it, they had to go inside. And then one day, while they were eating, I gently shut the door, and brought them inside my house.
And I prayed…for all who don’t know if a sweet enticement will turn out to be a trap or an opening to a world of joy. For all who are trapped. For all who are being freed. For all who hold open doors to new life.
Holy and gracious God, whose will it is always to bless, stretch out your protecting arms over:
- Hong Kong, as China’s new “national security law” for Hong Kong takes effect, criminalizing what had been protected speech (i.e., the right to criticize the Chinese government), and allowing mainland Chinese security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity.
- The dead, the missing, and the grieving after a landslide at a jade mining site in northern Myanmar killed at least 162.
- The United States, where there are way too many people who believe their right not to wear masks or take other public health precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is more important than protecting one another; and many others who cannot understand that the best way to have a healthy economy is to have healthy population.
- Scientists in Canada, South Africa, and Zimbabwe who are helping Botswana try to determine the cause of the “completely unprecedented” deaths of more than 350 elephants since May
III. Delight. As I had known they would, the kittens came to trust. They learned to play, to pounce, to wrestle. They discovered that being petted was Very Good, Very Very Good. The legs grew longer, and the purrs grew stronger, and my arms or my lap were usually filled with a cuddle puddle. They learned to ask – often way too loudly, and way too early in the morning – for the food and loving they craved.
And I heard God’s prayer for us: What would this world be like, if we could hold each other in patient love? If we could trust, without pushing, that just loving and waiting in love were enough to transform the world? What if we could love enough to truly hear one another, and to answer – even if it’s momentarily inconvenient – with infinitely deep love?
Holy and delighted God, smile with us in pleasure, as the restorative power of the Black Lives Matter movement spreads across the world:
- In France, where the global anti-racism protests led the armed forces ministry to provide local authorities with a guide to 100 Africans who fought for France in World War II, so that streets may be named after them. Presenting the list, Junior Defense Minister Genevieve Darrieussecq said, “the names, faces, lives of these African heroes must become part of our lives as free citizens, because without them we would not be free.”
- In the United Kingdom,where the Lloyd’s of London insurance market apologized for its “shameful” role in the 18th and 19th Century Atlantic slave trade, and pledged to fund opportunities for Black and ethnic minority people.
- In Nigeria, where leaders of the Igbo people hope the BLM movement will inspire similar change for their people, many of whom are the descendants of slaves and still face significant discrimination.
IV. Setting free. The time came. I wish I could have kept them all. I wish I could have kept that wild, but maybe-just-beginning-to-trust mama cat, and taught her how to be loved. I fell in love with the kittens, and wished they could have stayed with me forever. But they were ready. Feral mama, still very wary, was spayed and went to live on a friend’s ranch, where she will be cherished and invited into as much love as she can accept. The kittens were chosen with love, and this weekend will be on their way to wonderful families.
And I heard again God’s prayer for us: that incredible, deep, wanting all to be well with us. With every single one of us. With every single fiber of this planet, of this universe. With every single nation. Filling us with love…and then sending us forth, in love, to be love.
Holy and amazing God, rejoice with us at every tiny sign that your love is at work in the world, that the Kingdom of God is indeed at hand:
- From Kenya to Tanzania, Ethiopia to Malawi, Liberia to South Africa, tens of thousands of ordinary African women battle Covid-19 in their communities. Recruited and trained by governments and charities, the unsung army of mostly female and mostly unpaid community health workers are going door to door in remote villages and urban slums, talking about the virus, showing residents how to wash hands or don a mask, patiently answering their questions. Regardless of the risk to themselves. They do it in love.
And God said, go forth in love, to be love.