Ministry of Prayer and Intercession: Week 4 | Day 3

How can prayer address human suffering and unjust structures in the world? Br. James Koester shares his own experiences of the power of prayer around the struggles in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Question: For what place or situation in the world will you devote yourself to pray?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: God Sighting Map

Transcript: One of the things that people rely on us for from all over the world is our ministry of prayer and intersession.  It’s an extremely important part of our life, and we spend – individual brothers spend – a lot of time praying for the needs of individuals and the world.  We devote parts of the noonday office, Compline, the Eucharist, for prayer for the needs of the world. And I think as we wonder what or how we as individuals can transform unjust structures, one of the things that we can ask is how can prayer do that.

I remember as a teenager, two really powerful experiences that I had. One of them was during the apartheid struggle in South Africa, and the other was around the troubles in Northern Ireland.  And I remember for years, and years, and years in the parishes that I belonged to, we frequently prayed for Northern Ireland or Southern Africa, and it seemed like that line from the Psalm, “How long, oh, Lord, how long.”  And nothing ever seemed to change in either Northern Ireland or Southern Africa … and then they did.

And so I often look to Southern Africa or Northern Ireland and remember how much those people relied not just on our social witness, but on prayer, our prayer in solidarity with them as they struggled for justice, and I believe our prayers were answered.  It wasn’t just that the social action that people were doing, and that was real and important as well.  But it was also people’s constant daily, faithful prayer for justice, which I believed helped change the world.

I often find myself reading a newspaper or listening to the radio and looking at the news of the world and wondering what on earth I can do to change it.  Well, one thing I can do is to pray.  What one place in the world, or one situation in the world, can you devote your prayer to, to make a change, and make the world a better place?

– Br. James Koester

Question: For what place or situation in the world will you devote yourself to pray?

Week 4 Activity: God Sighting Map
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity


  1. Edan on March 31, 2017 at 14:00

    Every day I thank God that my children are here and we are together living as a family in our home. Home is where the heart is. Yet, I cannot help but consider the world outside the warmth and security of this life.

    Often I watch the sun rise and I look to see what the weather will be like for the day. It for me, is like staring at God’s creation in all its humility and glory. As the tiny flower blossom opens or the wind churns up the skies, it reminds me of God’s ability to create and to destroy. Just as we, his most beloved also have these abilities.

    On some days I question what ordinary individuals like myself think about this. Especially about my own ability to love this world that my family lives in. This relates to our environment that so many talk about in today’s age. How could it be that such loving people who want to give the very best for their families could have forgotten that the world God gave us is the very best, the most generous gift.

    I pray that God will not let me forget what this, our world, was like, and what it could be like again. The past reminds me of when I could hear crickets chirping even in the city. The time when there where less cars and gentler streets. The time when bumble bees and giraffes where not on the soon to be extinct list. The simplest and most beautiful life in our world seems to be slipping through the fingertips of humanity.

    I pray not only for myself, but for all people. I pray that they will remember this world that God gave to us. A world from the ancient past. I pray that I will not forget the life that lives in God’s kingdom. As this life lives both within and right outside my own dear families’ home.

  2. Jane Buttery on March 24, 2017 at 15:59

    II will keep praying for refugees world wide. I also am most concerned for those in S. Sudan and parts of East Africa who are satrving because of violence and drought. Poor people don’t seem to have a chance, Lord. Please help us all help them to a better solution.
    Thank you for caring for us and hearing our prayers.

  3. Mary Bodiak on March 23, 2017 at 12:40

    I pray for marginalized people, of whom there are millions. I pray for the US government leaders…that calm and discerning minds prevail amongst divisive turmoil. I pray for children everywhere to have their basic needs met. I pray for believers of all or no faith to treat one another respectfully. I pray that agape love be our daily goal in our actions, words, and deeds. Above all I pray that “God hold us all in the palm of his hand.”

  4. Ignatius on March 22, 2017 at 09:27

    I have been praying for the gang members, their families and their victims in El Salvador. I also pray for those working for justice in El Salvador. Our Salvadoran brothers and sisters already live in economic poverty (aka violence). Now they live with persistent gang violence. Peace.

  5. Bryan Cook on March 22, 2017 at 09:08

    I pray for those who lack the basics of life and for wise governmemt to preserve and secure my country so that we may be able to care for others. I pray for friends and family, the sick, the souls of my parents and ancestors, the health and well being of my family and that I may continue to have the physical and mental well being to care for them and serve God’s Mission. My praying for something is always in the context of giving thanks for the miracles He has worked in my life.
    However, Brother James has now prompted me to pray for enlightened world leadership to save us all from the now dangerously imminent threat of escalating nuclear
    wars….we are so much closer now than we have ever been. And I must also include the preservation of the capability of our planet to sustain life.

  6. Verlinda on March 21, 2017 at 23:25

    My prayer is for the victims and perpetrators of violence in my hometown, Memphis, Tennessee. So many lives get ripped in two by senseless violence.I pray that we will learn positive ways to address conflict and support all who work toward a peaceful community.

  7. Stan on March 21, 2017 at 20:27

    I am not really one to pray “formal” prayers; rather, I am one who “chats” with God, several times throughout the day, as the mood arises. Simple things … Thank you, help me, thank you, help some other person, thank you … and I listen for God’s guidance. But I certainly agree that there is plenty in this world to pray about, and I can see the power of having a lot of people praying for specific reasons and specific things. A lot of prayers all being focused on positive change is a lot of positive energy being released into the world. And that positive energy is the power of the love of God, which cannot be overcome.
    So … I pray for myself … to gently nudge me to start praying about the things that need praying about in the “collective” world, and not just in my own world.

  8. alice g on March 21, 2017 at 13:12

    I pray for the citizens of the U.S. I pray for our fragile island Mother Earth home, and for all creation suffering within it. I pray that love may overcome our preoccupation with the idolatry of capitalism and money. I pray that we may soften our hearts, and reach out to all humankind in solidarity, and in an effort to renew our beautiful God-given planet, remembering, as many Africans say, “God is big. God is very big.”

  9. Pam on March 21, 2017 at 11:04

    I pray that God will soften the hearts of all people in this country, that they may have a desire to be compassionate, loving, and merciful toward all people.

  10. Ed K on March 21, 2017 at 10:58

    I pray for Americans to wake up to the absurdity of our political situation and to muster the courage to replace greed and inhumanity in governance with the kindness and caring Christ taught us.

  11. Christina on March 21, 2017 at 10:07

    What NEED could I possibly choose to pray for. We are surrounded by unbelievably horrific pain. So, would it be the Syrian refugees (some of whom we have here in Canada). And, how about the Somalians who are dying because of their famine. We can do something about the refugees, but while we may be able to send food aid to Somalia, we cannot change drought. But, perhaps that’s where the prayers could focus. Pray for an end to the drought: pray to the all seeing, all loving God. Only the Eternal Creator will answer those prayers. Blessings to all. Christina

  12. Karen on March 21, 2017 at 09:50

    I regularly pray for the needs of children. That includes their need for food, housing and health care as well as their most important need for love. With this outlook I am currently praying for our government to pass a health care bill that will provide healthcare to those most in need. Too many hard working parents cannot afford basic needs and their children pay the price.

  13. Susan Sevier on March 21, 2017 at 09:36

    I pray for all those who are not free, those enslaved and in servitude, but also those who are in terror, those who are in want for basic necessities of life, and those whose minds and hearts are locked in fear.

  14. Suzanne Haraburd on March 21, 2017 at 08:59

    Pray for the government of the United States. I used to pray fervently and daily, then I didn’t, and I’m very sorry I let that go. I am returning to that prayer: “Turn our hearts, turn our hearts to You!”

    • Ruth West on March 21, 2017 at 22:52

      Suzanne, how desperately our nation needs the fervent and daily prayers of people such as you and me. Your post and this sermon tells me I definitely need to pray more.

      • Suzanne Haraburd on March 22, 2017 at 08:40

        Thank you, Ruth, for your kind words. It’s good to know you will be praying with me.

  15. Leta Kopp on March 21, 2017 at 08:17


  16. Kristi Leighton on March 21, 2017 at 08:10

    I pray for so many people on a regular basis, although not daily. and I can’t help but wonder, is this doing any good at all? How would I know if it did? How is it possible to make the world better by saying prayers? Can you honestly change anything just by praying about it? I feel compelled to pray for so many people and troubling situations, but I wish I knew if it was more than just an offering, so to speak. I know I can’t have direct proof that my prayers are effective but I want to believe so badly that they are.

  17. Linda B. on March 21, 2017 at 07:42

    I will pray for the people that are starving in Sudan

  18. Jon Kidwell on March 21, 2017 at 07:40

    I have been part of a noonday prayer group for several years and today’s lesson was encouragement to continue to pray even when it seems nothing is changing

  19. Rhode on March 21, 2017 at 07:15

    my heart is deeply burdened for my son and all his friends and this generation. i see a generation hungry for truth and justice and turning away from the god in christ who offers it. i pray everyday for the women in the prison nearby, some of whom i have spoken and prayed with, whose shame, felonies and life choices will follow them all their lives and most of them have nowhere to go that would offer them a life better than prison. i pray for justice and mercy for wisdom, truth and the courage to make a difference in the lives of whom i am praying for… the verse in Lamentations 2:19
    “…cry aloud in the night At the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water Before the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to Him For the life of your little ones Who are faint because of hunger At the head of every street.”…

  20. Mary Seager on March 21, 2017 at 06:35

    I have prayed daily for South Sudan and the people of Lui since 2009 when I went on a mission trip. I name the people I knew. I also pray for the Moru diaspora in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. I also pray for the people of Venezuela where I lived for two years in the mid-sixties. The Night Life Vigil in StL is a ministry of presence in one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city which I participate in, walking prayer. Prayer works.

  21. Susan on March 21, 2017 at 06:26

    Like John G., I too pray for the homeless and the hungry. On cold winter nights I pray especially for those without shelter or sufficient heat. I pray for refugees and for people whose lives are being destroyed by war. And I also spend time praying for things and people closer to home: the lonely and the widowed, the sick and the dying, those struggling with life situations such as divorce and depression. I pray for those who are bullied and for those who do the bullying. I pray for those who use social media so viciously. There is so much to pray for, and I often also wonder “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

  22. John G. on March 21, 2017 at 05:44

    I think I pray most often for the homeless and those who are not living in homes they like or want, places that are not really homes. This includes vast numbers of people: fugitives from war and terrorism in the middle east and Africa, immigrants in Europe, and homeless in our own communities.

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