Advocacy and prayer
Much of our prayer is advocacy.
Every time we intercede for someone’s health or for blessing in a
difficult situation, we advocate for
that person. Many of us pray into
social causes, taking our concerns
for people and creation to God. We
may even pray for politicians
whose daily decisions affect the
lives of many.
But what if we took it a step
further? What if we prayed with an
image of ourselves as advocates in
our minds? What if we saw ourselves in the long line of fierce
Christian activists – from Jesus’
public support for the outcast and
the marginalized (and harsh condemnation of those who would
abuse the weak for their own ends),
to more recent Christian advocates
like Dorothy Day, Martin Luther
King or Canada’s own Tommy
Douglas? Praying with that posture
is empowering, and we just might
be surprised by the answers we get
to our prayers.
Advocacy is authentic
We don’t go looking for things to
advocate for. But as we engage in
ministry and wrestle with why a
particular issue persists, we discover what needs to change to create
sustained progress. We scan the
political and social horizons to determine if the right conditions are
in place to get to that change.
This approach led a number of
Canadian organizations to focus on
advocating for child and maternal
health in recent years. The organ-
izations were painfully aware of the
great need for stronger health sys-
tems in poor countries. At the same
time, we knew the interest of the
current government was in target-
ed interventions with measurable
results. We worked to encourage
and influence interventions that
Amahd is a farmer in rural Pak-
istan. He is also a health advocate.
When a beloved aunt and her child
died during childbirth, Amahd
vowed to do everything in his power
to get birthing support in his village
so other women and children would
not suffer the same plight. For ten
years he pleaded with officials, but
there was no change. Women risked
the long journey to the nearest
hospital, or risked an unattended
birth at home.
World Vision arrived in the region and began training community members on how to work with
government to get the delivery of
basic services. Amahd and his
friends used their training to advocate for a birthing centre. At first
the answer was the same – no –
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but they persisted, and with their
new skills created a positive dialogue with the local health authorities. Finally, the government
agreed. A labour room was established at the local health clinic.
Today, between 20 and 25 babies
are delivered at the clinic each
month. Death rates have significantly declined.
Amahd’s persistence inspires
me. He did not lose sight of the
prize. Concrete transformation resulted from the advocacy. Where
once there was suffering and death,
there is now joy and life.
Advocacy is a ministry of influence, a way that Christians and
others can address underlying
causes and get to deep and lasting
change. For many groups in the
helping professions, advocacy is
increasingly core to their mission.
Advocacy complements direct service work. It is a way to help more
people, both now and for generations to come.
Here are some of the lessons
we’ve learned about advocacy and
how to do it well.
HOW TO BE AN