Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up (Hosea 6:1).
When Mt St Helens, a volcano in Washington State, blew its top in 1980, the topography of the land changed overnight. Anyone seeing some of these phenomena a few years later would have been inclined to suppose they must have been there for millennia, so deeply embedded had they become. Overnight the political landscape of the UK has likewise changed – though only time will tell the full effect of the political and spiritual forces that have been released.
The overwhelming impression that kept coming to me during the election night was that this was necessary. In this article I am sharing the insights the Lord has given thus far concerning events, as well as takes from various other friends. We hope you will find them helpful and a springboard for prayer.
The first point to bear in mind is that winds blow much stronger at altitude – as every mountaineer knows. Those in high positions experience pressures that the rest of us know little of. This is why it is so important to be a praying shield around those who are called to live and move in high places in the world as well as in the church.
Trees that grow too tall, and people who operate from too narrow a base, however, have to be levelled; for “He humbles that which exalts itself” (Luke 14:11, 18:14). We would hardly expect to find inscribed on the wall of the cabinet office the Biblical verse, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Pet. 5:6, cf James 4:10) It is, however, the ultimate warning of all.
Given the pressures of the job and the Theresa May’s own personality, it is easy to see how she came more and more to trust in a narrow clique of trusted advisers. But since this ended up with policies that appeared to offer little for the young, whilst at the same time alarming and alienating the elderly, the Lord has had to go to considerable lengths to unpick something which had become dangerously ‘hot-housey’.
The humbling of Nebuchadnezzar at the hands of the watcher angels in Daniel 4:10-37 is no fairy tale to point a moral; rather it represents profound spiritual reality. The mercy is that the Lord allowed a stump of the tree that had been levelled to remain in the ground. As we know from the Book of Job, at the scent of water, a tree (or political party?) that has been cut down can put forth new shoots and revive again (Job 14:7-10).
Once again we are witnessing another political earthquake – or volcano to revert to the Mt St Helens image.
As we prayed in the town wide prayer meeting this weekend, the picture came of a wind from the Lord blowing leaves off their trees. The interesting thing was that some of these leaves did not appear to be dead, but had still been blown off. We ignore to our peril the fact that our Heavenly Father is the Gardener, who, like any good gardener, prunes and cuts severely in order to secure the best results (John 15:1-8).
Sally Mowbray subsequently mentioned that she had climbed the Malvern Hills last week one day after there had been a strong wind, and noticed how the wind had stripped loads of leaves off the trees. There were drifts of them – as though it was autumn! All the stripped leaves had been the lovely soft fresh spring leaves. It felt a bit weird – something unusual had happened but all was ok!
Something that needed to be stopped has been stopped dead in its tracks. It is easy to feel that the present situation looks likely to produce anything but the best results. The risk of serious political instability is great – and this at the time when so many important decisions are going to need to be made.
The Lord gave a friend who had been feeling gloomy in the aftermath of the election this ultimately encouraging verse: “Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).
Lashan Hara and the power of speaking out
One of the joys of walking in the Spirit is that we are called to declare into being the things the Lord gives us to declare. This is entirely different, however, from the violent words and actions that are increasingly accompanying anyone who dares to proclaim beliefs and policies that do no match their own beliefs. Berkeley University in California, for example, the home of the Free Speech movement, is experiencing more and more hate attacks from supporters of both the left and the right making it dangerous for people to air their opinions.
More and more, therefore, reasoned debate – and the chance to see the good in what the other side is saying – is being thrown out the window, leaving plenty of dangerously sharp edges to tear the skin.
There is only too much ‘speaking against’ going on, the effects of which I warned about in the articles on Power outages and Lashon Hara. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ‘revenge’ George Osborne has been taking against Theresa May for sacking him as chancellor. Pray for the Lord to bring a pause to this endless sniping.
With this in mind I have been encouraging people to pray much for Theresa May herself. There is no question that Theresa May has been responsible for making many decisions in both self-imposed and ill-informed isolation. Not, be it said in the interests of fairness, that her opponent has necessarily shown himself to be a model for taking advice either!
Soul searing shocks as intense as the one she is now experiencing require enormous grace to handle. I doubt she has much experience of failure to fall back on.
She certainly needs prayer to reflect well, cope with and process the shock, and then develop the more consultative leadership style that is clearly needed. Bearing in mind how little time off she has had for so long, this is a tall order and why she needs prayer. See also this chapter on shock and shame in my book Ravens and the Prophet.
On the wider front, I suggest we hold the verse from Hosea high: which speaks of God’s people’s pressing in as they return to seek His face, of God having wounded but also of Him doing something good beyond the pain.
A view from France
Sheila, a friend who lives in France, wrote,
“I’ve been reading lots about “mess” and “chaos” post-election but my own feeling is more in line with seeing the stripped trees you speak of. The illusions have been stripped away. Britain is far from being united and we now have MPs that reflect the true situation. Possibly the younger voters have also had chance to express their view on Brexit via the clumsy method of the ballot box.
“However, I think that there are chances for positive things here. Scotland is less likely to split from the Union now, and working with an Irish party that apparently doesn’t want a hard Brexit with sensitive border issues will be a more pertinent point than the current vaunting of what are seen as the DUP’s failings. Praying for humility and a heart to reach out to work together might be a good starting point!’
With the first round of French elections over, there is a similar theme over here; since the new president is not from an old party there is again the prospect of working together.” (There is, of course, voting now for the Parliament as opposed to the President. Reporting on the first round of voting, Time Magazine report that “His fledgling Republic on the Move! — contesting its first-ever election and fielding many candidates with no political experience at all — was on course to deliver him a legislative majority so crushing that Macron’s rivals fretted that the 39-year-old president will be able to govern France almost unopposed for his full five-year term”
Praying for young and old alike to be able to see through specious promises
It is noteworthy that those who have appealed most to voters recently along ‘populist’ lines, such as Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Jeremy Corbyn, tend to bring a very strong message of hope and positive change. These play well to people’s increasing sense of entitlement. Whether they can come good on all that they promise is another matter; there were and are illusions here that in turn will be stripped away.
The wider issue here is to pray about what we are doing to protect the young from being bribed by specious promises – a question that applies as much to spiritual teaching as to political or economic matters.
A call to sit apart and pray
It was back in 1980, at the time of the Mt St Helens eruption, that the Lord first called me rather dramatically to pull back somewhat from my hectic ministry to spend more time seeking Him, and to call others to do so too.
I believe we are at such a time again now, when the Lord is calling those who are willing to stand aside from much of the prevailing spirit to humble ourselves and to pray on behalf of the land.
Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust – there may yet be hope . . . Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone (Lam. 3:28-33, cf 2 Chron. 7:14).
May the Lord hear the heart cry behind the prayers of God’s people and find ways to bring about more of His purposes.
Incidentally, that call in no way contradicts the call to others to get profoundly involved at every level!
The Irish Question and the prophecy by Alex Buchanan
Ireland has been bleeping for some time on the radar screen as a result of the breakdown of the Stormont government. The prospect of the London government needing once again to oversee Irish affairs is not an attractive proposition. But it had certainly crossed my mind that the DUP might end up as a major factor in holding the balance of power in a hung Parliament.
The complications at this stage are considerable – not least because of the risk of the London government being – or at the very least appearing to be – biased towards the DUP at the expense of the other parties in Ireland.
The strong prophetic word by Alex Buchanan I shared in the last edition was given in the context of the Irish troubles. It led to the forming of many fervent prayer groups, and perhaps ultimately to the Peace Agreement – which itself came about because Ian Paisley unexpectedly humbled himself to seek a deal with his erstwhile enemies.
May the Lord enable similar wisdom to be displayed now at this time – as opposed to seeking only expedient self-interest. Jumping the gun by declaring prematurely that a pact had been signed is an early reminder that much wisdom and tact and patience will be called for – both here and in many other areas of governmental life.
The strongest burden the Lord gave me to pray during the run up to the election, however, was that there would be major surprises in Scottish seats. My goodness there were – far exceeding the scale anyone had predicted.
Which, of course, is another reminder of how far short of the mark, once again most opinion polls (as opposed to the exit poll) were. Perhaps they are indeed, as one former leader of Intercessors for Britain famously declared, “a mild form of divination”!
May the Lord be at work north of the border in sharping the political, social and spiritual landscape.
Tensions between Chancellors and Prime ministers
I have been aware for some time of a pattern of unpleasant tensions developing between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, who find themselves living at extremely close quarters but seeing things through different lenses. Whether this is through ambition on the part of the occupant of number 11, or a strong grip on the financial realities, this is certainly something worth praying into.
When I mentioned this to Sheila, it reminded her of the tensions in her world, the Arts, that often exists between Artistic and Financial Directors. At best it is tension that keeps the ceiling up; at worst we know only too well the damage it can cause.
Pray that the layers of tension between successive Prime Ministers and their Chancellors does not function as a spiritual stronghold, preventing proper discussion and decisions from being made.
The Brexit dimension: praying for creative solutions
I began by speaking of volcanoes. Europe has always been a source of controversy and division for the Conservatives, and now more so than ever in that many of its MPs are committed to a ‘soft’ Brexit, whilst others are equally as eager for a ‘hard’ one. But there is no wriggle room of a majority left to absorb those who think differently!
And all that is only from the British end; what Brussels will insist on is another matter altogether. Unless the Lord leads and overrules, working with 27 other European nations to achieve proper deals is likely to prove more like Olympus Mons than Mt St Helens. (Olympus Mons, in Mars, is the biggest volcano in the solar system, being more than two and a half times higher than Everest, with a base the size of France!)
That is why it is time to pray creatively! When we were in the process of buying Mowbray Lodge jointly with Mum and Dad, it required us to sell two houses in order to buy the one. A few days after exchanging contracts, but before completing, we lost the sale of our house – and were left looking down a barrel. Mercifully, the Lord came up with a master stroke through the household owner. Given that he was as keen to sell as we were to buy, he came up with the idea of offering us a private mortgage (on very fair terms) to tide us over. The arrangement worked perfectly.
This may be wishful thinking, but surely everyone in the EU, like virtually everyone here, is eager to find a deal that works. May a creative and affordable way forward be forthcoming!
One of the main effects of the shaking, however, it that the momentum towards a ‘hard’ Brexit would appear to have been curtailed. All the more reason to pray the Lord’s grace for all that happens next. May the Lord prepare the right ‘vulcanist mountaineers’ to be scale the formidable challenges ahead.
A final word from another friend:
“My thoughts are with yours, that this situation is necessary, because it exposes how things really are. I’m not a great one for politics, but I do feel that the moral issues far outweigh any others, particularly abortion. It is interesting to see what will become of this alliance with the DUP and even more interesting to see the huge rally in London with the blatant pro-abortion placards.
“True prayer and politics do not sit comfortably together. Last night I was invited to a local mosque to share a meal as they broke fast. Many from the neighbourhood were there, including the Jews (one of whom was called Ishmael!)
“There was such a lovely sense of camaraderie between the Jews and the Mms, including jokes about how it was the Romans who destroyed the Temple, so don’t blame the Mms! And the Jews filling in the gaps about some of the prophets, with the Mm guy generously conceding defeat, because his imam wasn’t around to debate. Such fun!
“It made me reflect how many Christians identify so closely with politics as if certain people or policies are definitely God’s will, but in so doing they create more barriers instead of recognising that Jesus broke down the dividing walls.
“There are so many people of peace out there – a powerful force to be harnessed for the Kingdom, if we could only see it. I think the younger generation understand this better than we do, even if their votes have strengthened some political strands we might rather do without!
“The Lord gave me the exact same phrase you had: ‘at the scent of water . . . ‘ this very week. My prayer is that righteousness will spring forth.”