By Gina Shaner Farcas
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
Imagine a community of future church leaders, pastors, theologians, and scholars who have a burning passion to do something, each having encountered the face and reality of injustice through personal experience, friends’ stories, or the daily news, each feeling the passionate urge that inaction was not an option. This was the community of people that I found myself surrounded by my first year of seminary as I, too, was struggling with the reality. Having just returned to the United States after encountering the injustice for the first time, the passionate urges to do something were filled with more questions than answers. The injustice we encountered was human trafficking—the selling of young and vulnerable lives into the ever-growing modern-day slave trade.
As this community struggled with what the action was to be, we prayed and spent time in the Word and in conversation. There was a common conviction that arose through these conversations: We were being called to a powerful but less observable action. We were being called to fast and pray. The men in our community felt especially convicted that the Lord was calling them to a higher standard of purity, especially in the arena of sexual purity and what they were allowing to enter their minds. The women felt called to purity and examining their lives, how we chose to live and what impact our consumerist choices had on those who were caught in the modern-day scourge.
We committed to gathering twice a week for an hour to fast, pray, and meditateon a passage of Scripture. In each gathering, we asked the Lord to lead us in how we lived, in what it was that we were to do, and in how to pray. We would begin by setting our minds on a passage of the Word of God that would center us in prayer. We would then share stories and names of those that we knew were working with victims of human trafficking and for those who were caught in the darkness of slavery. Sometimes we knew names; other times, we would pray for those unnamed who the Lord laid on our hearts. We prayed for those across the globe, for those in our nation, and for those who were in our own backyard.
Each gathering was a time of asking the Holy Spirit to be present in the places where darkness and evil was, where hope was waning. There were prayers asking the Lord to open the eyes of those who were specifically working in red-light districts or in areas of poverty where women and children were being held in bondage. These prayers included petitions that the Holy Spirit would lead them to places where the prisoners would be set free. We prayed for those who had been in bondage for an extended period of time, that they would find Jesus and have a hope to hold on to in the midst of the evil and pain around them.
The incredible reality is that over the year and half that this community was faithful to pray, we heard of many ministries and people that we had prayed over and how the Lord was using them to set hundreds free. As happens in an academic setting, those in the community finished their studies and were sent out. Many went to be the ones who are physically involved in setting the captives free. And others have been the bearers of truth and freedom found in Jesus Christ to those who have battled years of addictions and personal bondage. There is one couple who is serving in a Muslim-dominated area in Asia; another is working in Southeast Asia in the red-light districts to provide after-care for those who have been freed. A few other couples are sharing the freedom of Christ to those who are battling addictions to those industries that prop up human trafficking in the United States. Others are working with at-risk populations here in our own backyard. And still the Lord has commissioned others of us to continue to be faithful to simply pray.
There was a deep power that was released in our community’s faithfulness to pray. Even when we would rather have done something, prayer was asking in humility for the Holy Spirit to work in ways that even our passionate actions could not. The question remains in the modern-day crisis and darkness: What if the people of God in their passion would humble themselves and pray and seek the Lord’s face and turn from their wicked ways? How would our world be changed? How would the statistics of human trafficking be affected? Maybe the Lord is calling you to action, but first he may be calling you to a season of humility and boldness in prayer.
Freedom Sunday—Sunday, February 22, 2015—is happening in just a few weeks. This is a day when churches in our movement will take a stand as a united community for those living in oppression around our country and around our world, seeking the Spirit’s leading to end human trafficking. Perhaps the action that you are being called to is prayer. You may never meet those who have lived in bondage and slavery, but you can be essential to their freedom story.