Poverty is a growing problem. It has been part of mankind for thousands of years and will be with us until the end of time. God gave us, the church, the task of caring for the poor and destitute. While He expects governments to rule justly and care for the poor, it is not primarily the State’s responsibility. We read in Proverbs, for example, how God views the poor, and we can read His instructions to believers and non-believers regarding them. However, taking care of the poor is primarily the responsibility of the Church.
Poverty has a very degrading effect on people’s lives. It often leads to inferiority, a beggar’s mentality and loss of hope. Many poor people stop looking for honest and meaningful work because of repeated failure. For most poor folk, little else matters other than survival. Although sin is rife among the poor, let us not forget that there is no less sin among people who are not poor (1 John 1:8).
Quoting statistics on the number of poor people and their living conditions is unnecessary; we see poverty around us every day. The point is we must do something about it! The most effective thing to do is to pray, but praying alone is not enough.
Here are a few guidelines to help us pray for the poor:
- First of all, when we pray for the poor, we must understand that it is not necessarily the case that they contributed to their state. We should not assume that they are too lazy to work or that they are simple-minded! Nor should we think their poverty is due to their sin. If someone is born in a squatter camp, for example, how can this be their fault? It does not mean that they are bad, wicked, stupid or lazy! We must not judge or make assumptions; God is the only One who knows everything.
- Read Isaiah 58 and pray through the chapter. Focus on everything concerning poverty and use this as the basis for your prayer. Don’t be judgmental or accuse the poor. Pray, instead, that God will be gracious and give them deliverance.
- Pray with a gentle heart, filled with compassion. Make sure there is no haughtiness in you, no feelings of superiority or of condemnation. Share with the poor, and don’t begrudge them the same grace God shows you. When we pray for the poor, the most important aspect of our prayers is the attitude of our hearts.
- Pray for systems and legislation that will prevent the poor from being exploited and misused. Pray for governments to make laws that will alleviate their plight.
- Large sums of money are made available by governments and foreign grants to uplift the poor. Yet, worldwide, only an estimated 17-20% of this money actually reaches the poor. In some cases, it may be more, but it is still an insignificant amount. Pray that fraud will come to light, and that the poor will reap the benefits of the available funds.
- Pray for the church to do more than what she is presently doing. Most congregations have projects to care for the poor. However, the work of caring for the poor is generally only done by a few individuals in the congregation; the vast majority of church members are uninvolved. In addition, Church Councils don’t usually make considerable amounts of money available for such projects. Pray that God the Father, through the working of the Holy Spirit, will touch the hearts of more Church Council members and congregants to become actively involved in addressing the needs of poor people.
- When we really pray from the heart for the needs of the poor, it is impossible not to become practically involved! Every one of us can give extra money per month; we each have an hour or two more per week that we can use to help the poor and needy. If you don’t know of an existing project, why not start one? Pray and ask the Lord for guidance. After all, this is how all the other projects started! The Bible is very clear that God has a heart for the poor and destitute. Therefore, He will help us when we step out in faith and start doing something. Even if we begin by helping just one or two people and expand in time, it is a start and it is helpful.