Praying for Rain

Before we get into the subject of this post today, I need to tell you about the 2017 Picture Birmingham calendar! This is our third year that Picture Birmingham and Mission Birmingham have collaborated to create this beautiful product, which contains 13 stunning photos by Birmingham photographer Rachel Callahan, and a short, Scripture-based prayer at the bottom of each page. As always, 100% of the profit from these calendars benefit both The Wellhouse (as does all of your purchases from Picture Birmingham) and Mission Birmingham. These calendars make great Christmas gifts, and you’ll be supporting two ministries at the same time! You can order yours here.

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After last night’s disappointing rain – or rather – non-rain event, much of the metro-Birmingham area has not seen any measurable rain for 33 days, according to The Alabama Weather Blog. The next chance of rain doesn’t come until next Saturday. 98% of the state is now in some stage of drought, ranging from moderate to exceptional, which is the highest level of drought. Of the metro-Birmingham area, most of it is in extreme drought, with a small portion in exceptional drought. Waterfalls such as Noccalula and the dam at Tannehill are bone dry, as are most of the smaller streams and creeks that run through our local parks, and are some of my favorite places to visit during a normal Fall.

I confess that I often find myself trusting in the science of meteorology to determine rainfall more than I should. God is the one who ordains seasons and weather patterns, and He is the One who opens and shuts the “windows of heaven” to provide rain or to withhold rain. Yet, this week the Lord has been prompting me to pray for rain. (What can I say, I’m rather slow and dull of hearing at times.) As I started this blog post, it was to pray for the elections, but God interrupted me and impressed upon me that we need to pray for rain.

Of course, anytime we’re talking about drought or praying for rain, the story that comes to most people’s minds is Elijah praying for rain near the end of I Kings 18. I wish we knew what he prayed, but I think the reason we don’t is because we too often want to turn prayer into a formula. I saw a book at the bookstore last night called, “The Right Prayers to Pray for Any Need”. But prayer is not about saying the right words in the right order to get what we want/need. Look at the passage in I Kings:

42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.”

What I noticed in this passage is that Elijah’s prayer position was one of humility and faith. He had faith in what God was telling him to do, and he was faithful to keep doing it until He saw God’s answer. Prayer isn’t about the right words. It’s about the right attitude toward God and about ourselves.

The context of this account is also interesting. Elijah had just finished facing off against the prophets of Baal, and we can read his prayer from that encounter. Verses 36-37 say, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” The purpose was to reveal God as the Sovereign Lord and to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. Then, in James 5:16,17, it talks about Elijah’s faith and prayer for rain, and it’s in the context of confessing our sins, which is the first step of having our hearts turned back to God.

As we face one of the most divisive election seasons in my lifetime, and as our culture continues to embrace those things which the Lord calls abominations, perhaps this drought is a small reminder that all of us who are called by His name need to humble ourselves and to faithfully seek God’s face (to borrow a phrase from a well-known verse, II Chron. 7:14).

Lord God, You are the God of this city and of every nation under Heaven, whether we acknowledge it or not. You establish kings and remove kings (Dan. 2:21). No purpose of Yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). We humbly acknowledge You are a great God and a great King above all gods (Ps. 95:3). We confess that we are idolatrous and prideful, and we need You to turn our hearts back to You.

We pray that You would bring rain to our state, Lord. You are in control of the weather patterns. You are the One who determines when rain comes and when it doesn’t come. Forgive me for taking so long to remember that I should be praying for rain, instead of constantly consulting my favorite meteorologist. We pray that You would open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (from Ps. 145:16) Revive us, O  Lord, by Your Spirit. Revive us with streams of Living Water. And when You bring the rains, let it serve as a reminder that You are the source of all that we need and desire. We pray this for Your name’s sake. Amen.

 

The Wellhouse – Our Last Stop on the Nonprofits Summer Prayer Journey

I have been so blessed by this prayer journey we’ve been on this summer, and I’m sad this is the last one we get to go in person to pray with and for. We’ve only scratched the surface of all the great nonprofit organizations/ministries we have in the metro-B’ham area.

This week we are visiting and praying for The Wellhouse. Founded in 2011 by Tajuan McCarty, The Wellhouse is a faith-based, Christ-centered ministry which offers immediate shelter and traditional housing to women who have been trafficked, are prostituting, or otherwise sexually exploited. In addition to housing, they also provide for all of their ladies’ basic needs as well as providing life skills classes, GED prep, and other enrichment to help them become self-sufficient and to give them a sense of self-worth. The goal is for women to go on to live full and productive lives. Each woman stays as long as it takes to reach that goal.

The Wellhouse is the only 24-hour shelter in the Southeast offering immediate housing assistance to women being prostituted. Other such shelters often require certain paperwork which many ladies in these situations just don’t have and can’t get. In addition to being a place that ministers to these precious ladies, the ministry also spends a lot of time educating the public about the epidemic of sexual trafficking: how it happens all around us, signs to look for to spot a sex-trafficked victim, what to do if you do suspect something, and other awareness issues. Ms. McCarty also spends time advocating to have laws changed to better protect victims and punish the traffickers.

Carolyn Potter is their executive director. There are numerous ways to help this ministry, as you can find on their website. The best way is to pray. Another great way to help is by purchasing stunning photographs from Picture Birmingham, which gives 100% of their profit to The Wellhouse. If you can’t decide which photograph you like best, and your budget can’t afford more than one, be on the lookout for the Picture Birmingham 2016 calendar, which comes out in early Fall. In the spirit of full disclosure, the proceeds from the calendar go to both The Wellhouse and to Mission Birmingham, the nonprofit ministry from which this blog started and who has been a key organizer and facilitator of the Nonprofits Summer Prayer Journey.

During our time of prayer at The Wellhouse this morning, we will be praying through verses from Romans 8, and so we’ll use it for our prayer time here on the blog, too.

Romans 8:1-2 – 1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus, You are the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. To You rightfully belongs all blessing and honor and glory and power and praise. You died for us while we were enemies of God and children of wrath. You have set us free from the law of sin and of death. You have sealed us with Your Spirit so that we can one day share in Your inheritance as sons and daughters of the Father. Glory! Hallelujah!!

Jesus, we raise up these precious ladies to Your throne today. You know their stories. Even in the midst of the darkest moments, You gave them strength to survive, and You have brought them out of those dark places into a place where Light dwells, and where the Living Water washes them and sets them free. We declare, in agreement with Your own words, that there is now NO condemnation for them in Christ. You have set them free from shame and guilt. We pray that they would come to a place of healing and wholeness so that they know that and feel that in every fiber of their being. God, we pray that not only would they be brought to this safe place that The Wellhouse is, but also that they would be brought to knowing You as their Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ name, we come against every lie that the enemy of their souls has convinced them is truth. We declare truth – that nothing they have suffered and endured can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We declare they are women of worth and value! We declare that they are precious in God’s sight! We declare that He has a good plan for them, to prosper them and not to harm them! We declare that they are not aliens and strangers, but are daughters and joint-heirs of the King, Beloved of the Bridegroom, sisters with every fellow believer.

Lord, we pray for an end to sex trafficking in this city, and for an end to sexual exploitation of any kind. That means, we also pray for the men and women who are the traffickers, that they would be set free from a life of destruction and rescued by the Great Redeemer. Lord, we thank You that even for them, once they respond to Your call to repent, that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. That is a very hard thing for us to pray, God, but Your arm is not too short that it cannot save even those.

Because there is the verse about the law of the Spirit of life and the law of sin and death, I wanted to take a moment to pray about justice in all of this. You are the God of justice, and Romans 8:33 says that You are the God who justifies. What You’ve been teaching me is that man’s justice does not always line up with Your justice. It is a more perfect but less understood justice. We pray that Your righteous justice would be fully accomplished on behalf of the ladies of The Wellhouse.

Finally, we pray for Tajuan, for Carolyn, and the rest of the staff at The Wellhouse. Lord, help them to stay at Your feet, keeping their eyes on You even as they fight for these women and all the other victims in our society. We know that God is for them and what they are doing in our city, and so we declare that no weapon fashioned against them will prosper. They wrestle with very strong forces, dragging things of darkness into the light, and so we pray for Your supernatural protection over each one of them and over everything that concerns them. We pray that even with the most heart-breaking cases, they would live and love and serve in the light of Eternity, knowing that these present sufferings are not to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to them (vs. 18). Give them great grace and strength, and cause them to put on the full armor of God each day so that having done all, they can stand firm against the devil’s schemes (from Eph. 6) as those who don’t just survive, but overwhelmingly conquer (vs. 37) through You.

Praying for the Human Trafficking Epidemic

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.