While it’s not an issue currently making local news, although it did briefly during the holidays, most of us are familiar with the controversies surrounding law enforcement around the country. As a police officer’s spouse it’s alarming, to say the least. I am going to keep my commentary and opinion to a minimum here for that reason, except to say this: there are noble and brave law enforcement officers who are willing to lay down their lives for strangers every time they put on their uniforms. They are human just like the rest of us with good days and bad days. I also realize that injustice exists in every human institution. I am not African-American, and so I do not know what it’s like to be looked at differently based on my race, but I am very aware that it still happens all the time. There are problems to be addressed on all sides of the issue. But hate from either side only exacerbates the problems. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Jesus is our only source of light and love. We must look to Him to address these issues in our society. So for those brave men and women who are out doing their best to protect and serve our cities, let’s pray. It is the best thing we can do in the situation. Psalm 91:1-4 – “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” 3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” Lord God, You are our Sovereign God and King. You see everything, and You have provided the answer to every issue and question in the person of Your Son Jesus Christ. You are the God of Justice, and we can trust You even when it seems justice is far off. You are our Redeemer and Deliverer. We pray for our law enforcement officers around the metro-Birmingham area, and even around this nation today. Father, I see and hear so much hurt and frustration among them as a result of how it seems the public has turned against them, and as a result of the hard things they have to see and deal with every single day. Heal their hearts, Lord. Do not let them become embittered and angry, or hateful. Instead, turn their eyes upon Jesus, to look full in His wonderful face. Let them know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. (from Eph. 3:19) Cause them to dwell in Your presence, and to rest in the shadow of the Almighty. You are a refuge to those who will run to You. Cause these men and women to run to You, Father. Be their fortress and strong tower from the onslaught of their real enemy, Satan. We pray that in the current climate, we would see many law enforcement personnel giving their lives to Christ. Let this cause a revival not of hate or fear, but a revival of salvation and redemption. We pray that time and time again, they would see Your hand bringing deliverance on their behalf. Spring every trap that is set against them. At the same time, though, we also pray that You would expose those who are corrupt and too hate-filled to do their job in a way that honors You. Remove those officers in Your way. Father, cover these men and women with Your righteousness and faithfulness, as well as with Your protection. Cause them to fix their eyes on You and to call out to You. You promise to answer when we call out to You. (Jer. 33:3, for example). And like 2 Chronicles 20:17 says, do not let them fear or be dismayed, but let them stand and see the salvation of the LORD on their behalf. Thank You for Your Word, Lord, that helps us to pray without letting our emotions and opinions get in the way. Amen. I know the other side of this issue needs to be covered in prayer as well. If you feel so led, please feel free to do so in the comments.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Human trafficking is right here in our own backyard. In an article by Kent Faulk at al.com, Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia, who is the chairman of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, shared some alarming facts about this epidemic, as well as some encouraging steps being taken to help rescue more victims.
- More than 27 million people worldwide are victims of sex and labor trafficking. According to statistics on The Wellhouse site 80% are women and 50% are children.
- A 17-year old girl from Birmingham was trafficked (bought and sold) in 4 states since she was 12 years old. A Georgia man was charged with sexual trafficking in January 2013 in that case.
- Interstate 20 from Texas to South Carolina is the “Sex Trafficking Superhighway” as traffickers use it to move their victims.
- The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, has created a website, www.enditalabama.org, which includes facts, warning signs of someone who may be exploited, and where to go for help.
- Rep. Williams plans to introduce legislation in the Spring session that will prevent teenage trafficking victims from being charged with prostitution.
- The Wellhouse is a Christian ministry founded in 2010 here in Birmingham by Tajuan McCarty that works to rescue victims of sexual trafficking. They received 1,400 direct service and crisis related calls in 2014.
Isaiah 61:1, 7 – “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;…..Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs.”
Lord Jesus, You are our Rescuer and Redeemer. You performed the ultimate prisoner exchange when You gave Your life to ransom us from Satan. Not only do You redeem, but You also restore us. You take us from being enemies and children of wrath and make us beloved children of God seated with You in the heavenly places. (Eph. 2:1-6) Hallelujah!
My words seem inadequate to pray for such a devastating and overwhelmingly huge issue as this. Thank You for Your Word that guides and gives us words to pray. Lord Jesus, we pray that every captive being used in the sexual trafficking industry would be set free. John 8:36 says if You set us free, we will be free indeed, and so we pray that the victims of human trafficking would experience freedom in You, as well as in their circumstances. We pray for practical, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual liberty for every man, woman and child currently enslaved in this horrific industry. Bind up the deep, deep wounds in their spirits as only You can, Jesus.
Set them free from shame, Lord. Let them experience Your favor and blessing. We pray that the metro-Birmingham area would not be known as a hub or thoroughfare for this business, but that instead it would become known as the place of rescue and safety for victims. We pray that You would continue to make us aware of the problem, and show us how to help. Transform the negative stereotypes we tend to have, and let us see the situation and the victims through Your eyes of grace and mercy. We pray that Your truth and light would prevail against the lies and the darkness which have allowed this industry to become as large as it is.
We pray for Rep. Jack Williams and the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. Give them wisdom and discernment as they make policies to bring awareness and rescue to the victims in our own state and cities. We also pray for ministries such as The WellHouse who are providing rescue, redemption and provision to the victims. We pray that You would provide all the resources they need to continue the work that they do. We pray that the directors and leadership team would keep their eyes on You, because You are the only Way, Truth and Life for those lost in the darkness of the sex industry.
Jesus, this part is harder for me to pray, because my flesh wants to despise the pimps and traffickers. Yet, they, too, are caught up and enslaved in this lifestyle. It’s not what You created them to do, and they cannot find what they are looking for through their choices. We pray for salvation to come upon these men and women who are the perpetuators of these crimes and slavery. They are afflicted by sin in ways that are hard to fathom. We pray that You would bring Your good news even to them. If the traffickers get set free through the Gospel, it would prevent new victims. Thank You, Jesus, that nothing and no one is too bad for Your grace to cover.
To You, who are our Light and Salvation, we pray all this and more. Amen.
Mission Birmingham, which is the ministry through which this blog was initiated, and The WellHouse partnered together toward the end of 2014 with Picture Birmingham to create a calendar. It includes beautiful photos from around the Birmingham area, along with Scripture-based prayer prompts to help us pray for our cities. The proceeds from the calendar sales go to The WellHouse and Mission Birmingham. Right now, the calendars are on sale for just $12 while supplies last. Visit Picture Birmingham if you would like to order one.
On New Year’s Day, al.com posted an article by Carol Robinson stating that the homicide rate in Birmingham for 2014 was one of the lowest in decades, at 59 killings, which is 7 less than the year before. Our lowest homicide rate since 1966 was in 2011, with 57. Of those 59, 8 were ruled justifiable so far. While we understand that for the family and loved ones of these victims even one homicide is too many, we rejoice that the rate continues to trend downward in recent years.
They mentioned a few of the other cities we’ve been praying for in the article:
. Bessemer – 2 homicides, down from 5 the previous year
. Hoover – 2 homicides, down from 4 the previous year
. Fairfield – 4 homicides, same as in 2013
. Brighton, Homewood, Hueytown, Pleasant Grove and Warrior – 1 homicide each
In other news, an article on Yellowhammer said that Birmingham was named Best City in America by Movoto, a real-estate website known for making research-based city rankings.
Lord God of Heaven, we know there are still a lot of things that need to be improved on and prayed for around the metro-Birmingham area, but we are so encouraged by these reports. Our prayers have made and are making a difference! You, Lord God, hear and answer us as we seek You for our cities! I think that as intercessors, or those who have a heart to pray for their city, we tend to think that until we have the men and women we like in office, and all the homeless are taken care of and all the crime is gone, then our prayers haven’t been effective. But those are the lies of Satan because it keeps us discouraged, overwhelmed, and really puts too much focus on our prayers and our ability to change anything because we pray. The truth is, as we pray, we are coming before You, the Sovereign Creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Almighty, the Great I AM. You are stepping in and changing things; You are dispatching Your angels on behalf of our towns and cities. You are saving lives and affecting change for our good and Your glory. Hallelujah! Glory to You, Lord!
Lord, I confess that I sometimes grow weary in praying, or I let myself get distracted by being busy. I pray that in this new year, You would give us grace to be more faithful and constant in prayer, keeping our eyes on You and not on the circumstances we hear and read about in the news. Protect us from feeling overwhelmed by evil, by trusting Your perfect plan for us and for the places You have ordained for us to live in and pray for.
Like Paul said in Acts 17:24-28, we acknowledge that You are God of heaven and earth, and You are not served by human hands as though You needed anything, since You are the One who gives to all people life and breath and all things. You ordained the times we should live and “the boundaries of our habitation” so that we would seek You and find You. In You we live and move and have our being. Continue to give us grace to realize how utterly dependent we are on You, so that we would be even more diligent to seek You in all things, and to give You the honor, praise, glory and thanksgiving of which You alone are so worthy.
So thank You, Father, for hearing and answering our prayers on behalf of the metro-Birmingham area. We praise You for the lives that were saved in 2014. We praise You for the favor that is continuing to increase toward Birmingham. It seems that Isaiah 62:4 is coming to pass for this city; it is no longer being called Forsaken or Desolate; instead it is being called a delight and a covenant of righteousness with the Lord is being and will continue to be established. We pray that the entire metro-Birmingham area, all 7 counties and 90 municipalities, will be established in a covenant of righteousness with You. For Your glory. Amen.