A Journey with the Lord’s Prayer

(written by Savithri Sumanthiran, Regional Secretary for South Asia)

“பரலோகத்தில் இருக்கிற எங்கள் பிதாவே” was the first Christian prayer I ever learned. I don’t know whether my memory serves me right, but as I recall, I learned the Lord’s prayer first in Tamil from a Lady Bird Book! From then on The Lord’s Prayer has been one of my favourite scriptures.

Shaping a relationship of intimacy with God…

In my early years, this prayer established a routine of prayer for me – no questions asked of it, no answers demanded from it. A a child, I simply prayed it. As I grew up, this prayer became the mainstay of my prayer life: the place where I have conversations and arguments with God; the platform from which I can pray during times when God seems distant and prayer impossible.

Shaping of character in the presence of God…

In my teens, I grappled for the first time with a phrase in this prayer; I had experienced hurts at a personal level, culminating in being confronted by a world that suddenly was no longer safe. I struggled to understand what it means to pray “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” – What did ‘debts’ mean? Who is the ‘us’ in this prayer? Was I to learn to forgive only those who are fellow Christians or was I to forgive the “other” who did violence to me and my community as well? I began the journey of learning what it means to forgive by taking the first steps. And I started to learn the freedom of self-talk that is able to say to myself: “I was wrong; I need to say ‘I am sorry, please forgive me.” And to enter into the scary process of meeting the person I offended or was offended by. This journey continues.

Shaping of a world-view in the presence of God…

Just a little older, praying this prayer introduced me to the idea that somehow Jesus is telling us to want His Kingdom to come, His will to be done – not at some future place but on earth. Until this time, I had internalized this phrase to mean that Jesus desires holiness in my personal life. Another journey of understanding Jesus and His mission began for me! Right now, I am trying to come to terms with why this prayer is all in the plural – “Our” Father, Give “us” this day our daily bread; Forgive “us” our trespasses …; Lead “us” not into temptation; Deliver “us” from evil…

Matthew 6: 9 – 13

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

SavithriThis Scripture for me:

  • is my safe space – a place to be open and intimate before the Lord;
  • is my discomfort space – a place to bring my real world questions and challenges
  • is my learning theology space – a place which invites me to enter the world of Jesus; to have conversations with fellow believers; to read what others have written.

Savithri Sumanthiran, Savithri.Sumanthiran(at)ifesworld.org

Where Scripture and Life Connect

This was the theme of a very memorable Scripture engagement consultation for which over 100 NIFES student leaders, staff and associates gathered in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Our time together started with a pre-consultation to train the small group facilitators on how to lead their groups. This was important since work in small groups played a significant role during the consultation.

One of the high points of this consultation was a small group project, in which we worked together on the way in which God’s Word connects to the realities of our context. One aim of this exercise was to renew the good practice of coming back to the Scriptures when dealing with the challenges of our context thereby strengthening our conviction that Scripture is relevant to all of life.

The contextual issues which were identified for consideration during the small group project were:

  • examination malpractice/academic corruption
  • corruption and governance
  • sexuality
  • poverty and violence
  • cultural practices
  • persecution

Each small group worked on one contextual issue in four steps. First, we identified the main challenges about this issue: what provokes us to seek a Christian response? Secondly, we brainstormed biblical passages which could help address this issue. Thirdly, we chose one biblical passage to look at in more detail and see how it speaks to the contextual issue. Lastly, we thought about creative approaches/relevant ways of sharing this passage and its perspective in our context.

Each group presented their work on a cardboard paper and displayed it for the other participants to go through. This was really educating!

Personally, working on the small group project was very transforming. Going through the Scriptures to see what God’s Word says about every form of malpractice and corruption was not only hard work but also engaging. The big question became: How will we as a national movement address the issue of examination malpractice/academic corruption in our country?

When I now hear of Scripture engagement, I do not only think of studying my Bible, but of much more. I think of LSLS: I think of Loving, Studying, Living and Sharing God’s Word. For me, Scripture engagement has shifted from being a mere activity to a lifestyle. I have resolved to live out the Word of God and to share it with my friends and siblings. My conviction about Scripture has deepened and I desire the fruitful change which God’s Word brings.

Jesus the host, who invites us to his Word, is the reality that changes everything.

David Ndubuaku, student president of NIFES
ndubuakudavid(at)gmail.com

Students Take a Stand Against Corruption

Africa is plagued by corruption and Ghana is no exception. No matter where you go it seems someone is expecting a pay-off, a favour, or ‘a little something’ just to do what they are paid to do. This problem is a hindrance to national development and a major blight on the character of a nation where more than 60% of the population claim to be Christian.

But what is the source of this corruption? Where there is fruit, we must examine the root, and one place where seeds of corrupt practices are sown is in the examination halls. Cheating, in one form or another, has become endemic on our campuses. Students from the IFES movement in Ghana (GHAFES) are however taking a stand.

Last year, GHAFES students at the University of Cape Coast decided to launch the project C.A.M.E. – Campaign Against Malpractice in Examination. This campaign focuses on Christian students, many of whom have bought into the growing culture of cheating while adopting an ‘everyone is doing it’ attitude to the issue. Its aim is to remind these students that cheating in examinations is a sin and challenge them to refrain from doing it, thus setting an example on the campus at large and raising the standard for integrity.

GHAFES students are using a variety of innovative and creative approaches to raise the issue on campus. These include a banner (see image), flyers, stickers and posters. A video documentary was broadcast in six different halls on campus to expose and highlight the issue. The campaign also included four interactive hall forums where these hidden bannercorruptiondeeds could be brought to light and steps taken to address them.

Some students reacted negatively to the campaign and asked GHAFES to stop it, believing it to be a hindrance to their progress on campus. Nonetheless, GHAFES students are continuing their efforts, trusting that “Better is the poor who walks in integrity than a rich man who walks in crooked ways” (Proverbs 28:6). What have been the results?

We have so far seen students making open pledges not to cheat in exams and we trust that such open confessions will guide us all and keep us in shape. A lot of the Christian students we interacted with did not see anything wrong with helping other students in the exams hall. Through the campaign they realized that both giving help and receiving help are wrong. (Elikem Aflakpui, GHAFES president at the University of Cape Coast)

We praise God for these students who are taking the initiative to change their campus and pray for their ongoing efforts to bear fruit – not just on the campus, but throughout Ghanaian society.

Victor Obeng (info(at)ghafes.org)
General Secretary of GHAFES

Listening and Lifestyle

Have you ever been in a conversation and suddenly realized that you completely missed what the other person just said? Have you ever read through a Bible passage without taking in the content? I have. For many of us listening is a challenge. Our thoughts are full with so many things: we are pre-occupied. And then we are unable to take in anything new.

In order to survive our studies, many of us learnt to speed-read. We read quickly in order to be effective, but when we bring this to Scripture, it is not at all effective. Unless we slow down, we will not listen well. How can we learn to stop and listen in the midst of our busy lives? How can we create space to receive the Word of God? The answer to these questions does not only have to do with how we read our Bible, but also with how we live our lives as a whole.

Listening well to God’s Word is related to our lifestyle. Last year, Isra Ortiz, a staff worker with GEU Guatemala realized that he needed to make changes in his life:

Over the past years I developed the habit of staying up very late at night. I knew it wasn’t a healthy habit, but I wasn’t too concerned. Eventually, however, I realized that it was affecting me in negative ways. I had a hard time waking up in the mornings. I often felt tired during the day and was always in a rush. This prevented me from having quality time with God and his word. I felt tired, but also restless, desperate for God’s presence and guidance. 

The Lord made it clear to me that I needed to make a practical change in my lifestyle: go to bed earlier. For the sake of my health, but also for the sake of my soul! Now, I am in the process of changing my old habit.

Some days I really struggle, but by God’s grace, progress has come. This simple change in lifestyle means that I get better rest, wake up earlier, and start the day with God. Since starting to read the Bible in the mornings, I have a new relationship with God’s Word. I am enjoying God from the beginning of the day. And that changes everything. 

Listening well is also related to our lifestyle in another way. It includes obedience – responding to what we hear with our words and deeds. Jesus said: “My mother and brother are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21).

Sabine Kalthoff