Dreaming Dreams, Praying Prayers

Yesterday, Janet told me she has an insistent call that won’t leave her alone lately: to start a worship dance program or ministry. She was a dancer until her health took her away from it two decades ago. So this was very encouraging to hear.

I also jokingly told her I was glad it was a vision and not a dream, since Isaiah prophesize that it’s the old who will dream dreams and the young who will have visions. Yeah, he was referring to men, but just in case the same principle applies to women…

It must have been a bunch of old men then who came up with this one: The U.N. declared October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. And this Sunday (tomorrow) is the Christian expression of that through the Micah Challenge, in which World Vision is a partner.

Eradicate poverty? Didn’t Jesus say we will have the poor with us always? OK, so he was quoting a well-known verse from Deuteronomy (15:11) which was actually about giving freely to the poor, making the contrast that the disciples wouldn’t always be able to act generously toward him as the “sinful” woman was doing with expensive perfume at that moment.

Even so, “eradicate” poverty? That’s so… last year.

Remember the era that was, as we watch it now bobbing ever further behind us in the slipstream? Discussions of how yes, there will always be richer and poorer, but that there needn’t be grinding, abject $1-a-day poverty, starvation, and double-digit child mortality rates. That we could do better, and maybe for the first time in human history, that “end of poverty” could be possible.

But this was before 2008, before the global food shortage, before the financial meltdown. So even as 100 million additional people are at risk of slipping into poverty due to today’s higher costs of the food they need to survive, we in the wealthier nations are focused on keeping our boat afloat. And it’s a reality that every time a boat gets “bailed out”, precious things get thrown overboard.

I see those yesteryear dreams trailing in the water behind us now.

The Micah Challenge offers a prayer for this Sunday, which probably made so much sense when it was written several months ago and yet now seems so naive if not obtuse to what’s really on the minds on world leaders right now… and the rest of us, for that matter:

God of all creation:
We pray to you at a moment in history of unique potential,
when the stated intentions of world leaders
echo something of the mind of the Biblical prophets
and the teachings of Jesus concerning the poor, and
when we have the means to dramatically reduce poverty.

Today, we want to commit ourselves, as followers of Jesus,
to work together for the holistic transformation of our communities,
to pursue justice, be passionate about kindness
and to walk humbly with God.

We pray that you will transform the hearts of decision-makers
of both rich and poor nations, to fulfill their public promise
to those living in impoverished and marginalized communities;
the promise they made to bring an end to extreme poverty.

We pray that your Spirit will stir Christians everywhere
to be agents of hope for and with the poor,
and to work with others to hold our leaders accountable
in securing a more just and merciful world.

May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
In justice, mercy and humility we pray.

Maybe it’s still worth our praying fervently this Sunday.

Each time I re-read it, pray it, I feel sad at how far back those dreams seem already; yet stirred afresh with Jesus’ own prayer at the end “May your kingdom come on earth…” Hope deferred make the heart sick; but deferred is not defeated.

A donor friend asked me this week: “Why don’t we hear about AIDS any more? Is it still a problem?” The operative word is “hear”, of course. Those stories have long since been crowded out of newspapers and news shows by stories about the economic crisis. So the food shortage and the AIDS pandemic and impacts on “the least of these” take a back seat… in our minds and in our media.

It’s always been that way. And it’s just as true for me as anyone… more on that next time.

Lord, help us dream dreams and have visions. As misguided and naive as some of the more recent efforts to address poverty have been, I will far more rue the day when the world and the followers of Jesus forgot. Forgot to care. Forgot how much You care. Forgot to dream.

PS: To commemorate Micah Sunday alone or with your church, visit for resources: http://www.micahchallenge.us/micah_sunday.shtml
“And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

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