This article was originally published in Edition (8) of Prayer Magazine,  Oct-Dec 2006.

We looked last time at the processes of Government, how bills are made and pass through our various parliaments and how we can be consider prayer for our leaders.  We continue this important article in this edition of Prayer Magazine.

OUTSIDE THE LORDS AND COMMONS

In praying for law-making in the UK one must also be aware of laws that are primarily debated away from the Lords and Commons. Whilst there is not the space in this short article, to make reference to these in detail, one must be mindful of secondary legislation and the laws made by devolved and European institutions.

1. SECONDARY LEGISLATION

Detailed decisions about the implementation of Acts of Parliament are made through subsequent ‘secondary legislative regulations’ which are not usually debated on the floor of either the Lords or Commons. If the regulations are controversial, however, government will often consult about their definition. Thus, whilst one will not have the opportunity to pray for large debates in Parliament, one will be able to pray for a lower profile consultation process and the government’s response to that process. This will be the last opportunity to pray since we are not dealing with a bill that then has to move onto another stage of debate and deliberation.

2. DEVOLUTION

Since 1999 Britain has enjoyed devolution via the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and National Assembly for Wales. Sadly there simply is not the space in an article of this length to consider these bodies in detail.  To find out more, visit the web sites below or, indeed, those of the Christian lobby groups that engage with these institutions.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT & SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE

www.scottish.parliament.uk

www.scotland.gov.uk

NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY & NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE

www.niassembly.gov.uk

www.nio.gov.uk

(The Assembly has been suspended since October 14 2002).

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES & WELSH ASSEMBLY GOVERNMENT

www.wales.gov.uk

3. THE IMPACT OF EUROPEAN LAW

Then one must not forget law emanating from Brussels. This takes the form of ‘Directives’, ‘Regulations’ and ‘Decisions’. Anyone who thinks that they can pray effectively for British law by focusing narrowly on institutions residing in the UK is very much mistaken. Again, however, given the constraints of space, this article simply mentions this area. To find out more, visit the web sites below or, indeed, those of the Christian lobby groups that engage with European institutions.

www.europarl.eu.int/                       European Parliament

www.europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/      European Parliament on Law

http://europa.eu.int/                         European Union

UNDERSTANDING WHAT NEEDS PRAYER TODAY!

I well remember shortly before Christmas 2001 meeting a couple who had just come from a prayer meeting where they had been focusing on the needs of government. As a Christian lobbyist at the time I was well aware of the fact that this was a crucial day in the government’s first attempt to push through a law against the incitement to religious hatred. There was huge concern about the implications of this bill which could have significantly undermined the freedom of the Church. ‘O great’, I said, ‘I suppose that you were praying about the incitement vote today?’ My friends looked at me blankly and said, ‘What incitement vote?’ They knew nothing about it and then went on to tell me that their prayer meeting had been devoted to praying and discussing, in great detail, an issue that was of no particular priority at that time. After they had left I found myself feeling a mixture of shock and extreme frustration. 

As Christians we need to put ourselves in a position where we can be aware of the facts so that we can pray appropriately. Happily, in this day and age rising to this challenge is easier than ever before.  There are a whole series of Christian bodies working to both: a) represent the Christian views of their membership/supporters directly to government (rather like trades unions) and b) empower Christians on the ground to speak for themselves, generating a bottom-up, transformational movement (rather like the so-called ‘new social movements’ e.g. the Green movement). All of these bodies, some of which focus narrowly on specific campaigns, others of which have set themselves up so that they can respond to any issue, develop mechanisms for informing Christians. In most cases there are three main communication channels. First, magazines and prayer letters, second, web sites and third email services. The magazines and newsletters are very helpful but in a fast changing world, if we are to pray intelligently, it is vital that we connect to email services so that we are in the position of being able to know what is going on today. Due to the publishing deadlines and the need to be months in advance of publication this article does not include a list of ‘current’ parliamentary prayer priorities, asking you to address them in during your times of intercession! The provision of email is a great blessing for the Church and we need to make full use of it. Christians who are ‘on line’ but have not subscribed to the key email services should consider doing so as a priority and Christians that are not ‘on line’, and have the resources to go ‘on line’, should get connected if only to put themselves in a position where they can know about current needs and pray appropriately.

We’ve listed below a few reliable agencies that frequently produce information and prayer guidelines on the legislation that is currently going through parliament.  Why not visit these websites to get more information.

1. THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE

Web: www.eauk.org/public-affairs

2. CARE: CHRISTIAN ACTION RESEARCH AND EDUCATION

Web:   www.care.org.uk

3. THE CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE

Web:   www.christian.org.uk

4. THE MARANATHA COMMUNITY

www.maranathacommunity.org.uk

IMPACT THE NATION!

Having considered the above organizations and the information they provide, it is important to point out that Prayer in Action runs a prayer email service which seeks to keep intercessors informed of all the latest prayer priority developments impacting government, and other aspects of life, called Impact the Nation. If you have not yet subscribed to Impact the Nation then visit the www.prayer.tv website and subscribe to the email bulletin which is listed on the left side of the website.

Having considered organizations with a primarily lobbying function, one must also be aware of the rather different work of Christians in Parliament

CHRISTIANS IN PARLIAMENT

Based within the Palace of Westminster, Christian in Parliament, a cross-party, non-denominational group, seeks to facilitate prayer for politicians and the work of Parliament in the context of primarily relationally supportive/pastoral and devotionally challenging aims and objectives.

www.christiansinparliament.org.uk

PRAYING AT 2.30

In considering the subject of praying for government it is important to both recognise and be thankful that prayer remains a regular feature of life at Westminster. One of Britain’s better traditions has been to commence parliamentary sittings with prayers.[1] These prayers are taken by the Speaker’s Chaplain in the Commons and by one of the Bishops in the Lords.  They can take place at different times, depending on when a sitting actually commences but traditionally the main focal point is at the beginning of the afternoon sessions which commence at 2.30 pm. It is only once prayers have been completed that members of the public are allowed into the visitor’s galleries.

Although we cannot provide a transcript of a prayer time since this period is un-recorded, it is possible to include the parliamentary prayer.

‘Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals; but laying aide all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed. Amen’.

What are you doing at 2.30 pm when parliament is in session? Why not ‘join in spirit’ by saying this prayer and then supplementing it with your own?

CONCLUSION

1. Build in space to regularly pray for government in your personal prayer times.

2. If you are a church leader and your church does not give regular time in its main services to pray for government then consider making this adjustment.

3. If you are ‘on line’, make sure that you have subscribed to the available email services.

4. If you have the resources to go on line but have chosen not to, perhaps because you are afraid of computers(!), consider the strategic significance of doing so from a ‘Kingdom perspective’, face your fears and go on line. You will be much better informed when you come to pray!!

5. If your timetable permits, consider setting apart ten minutes to pray for government at 2.30 pm when Parliament is sitting (see www.parliament.uk), joining praying parliamentarians ‘in spirit’ saying the printed prayer and supplementing it with your own.

 

This is a great tradition which interestingly has not been replicated in the new devolved bodies. The National Assembly for Wales for example makes no official provision for prayers, whilst the Scottish Parliament has ‘times of reflection’ that are led by the leaders of different faith communities, according to the proportion of people subscribing to different faiths as disclosed by the 2001 census. In the first week of May for example, the Sikh cleric Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji led MSPs in a time for reflection.

 

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