How long, O Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
These words of protest are not the words of a cynic. They are not the words of a scoffer. These are the words of a prophet of the Lord.
“God do you see? Do you see the violence? Do you see the injustice? If you see it, why do you tolerate it? Why do you not act?”
This protest is an expression of a passionate longing for peace and justice. It is a protest against abuse, greed and corruption of every kind. It is a protest against violence and oppression of every kind.
We long for peace. We long for justice. For ourselves, for our families and for our communities. But our personal power to bring an end to violence and to establish justice is very limited. We are up against forces that are far more powerful than we are. We need God to act.
Yet God seems, at times, to do nothing.
So we turn, with the prophet, to God and we protest. Our passionate longing for justice spills out. “God we long for justice to be done, we long for peace to prevail. Help us!” we pray.
We may expect that our prayer of protest will be difficult for God to hear. But our prayers of protest against injustice and violence are welcomed by God. Scripture teaches us that justice and peace are some of God’s deepest passions. It may well be, therefore, that when we pray prayers of protest that it is God’s own passions at work within us, moving us, empowering us, drawing us ever more closely together.
When we open our hearts to our own experiences of suffering or to the suffering of others, we begin to feel the same outrage and passionate longing for justice and peace that God experiences. When we take our protest to God, we may find that our protest is flowing from the very heart of God.
God, I read and listen to the news,
and I choke on the outrage and helplessness I feel.
The violence in our communities and in our world.
The violence in our homes.
The terrible injustices in this world,
in our own land,
in our own lives.
God, do you see?
God do you know?
Oh, God when will you act?
Notice the news stories from around the world and in your own community. Ask God’s Spirit to draw your attention to one of these stories in particular. Allow yourself to open your heart to the people experiencing violence or injustice. As you are ready, pray a prayer of protest on their behalf. Let yourself long for peace and for justice in this situation.
Or let yourself reflect on whatever violence or injustice that you yourself have suffered. Open your heart to your own suffering. Offer your protest about this suffering to God in prayer, remembering that you and all you feel are safe with God.
from An Enduring Embrace: Experiencing the Love at the Heart of Prayer,
by Juanita Ryan, 2012