I offer here a prayer I wrote for Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio, which they recorded and broadcast earlier in the week. There were three main things on my mind in composing this prayer.
The first was to follow the Anglican ‘Collect’ practice (which is a good principle of all prayer) by locating our request within what we know of the character of God, expressed in an opening affirmation.
The second was to pray into a range of issues, not all of which have actually been on the agenda of the election. For example, as a culture we are out of kilter because we have lost a vision of the God-given pattern of a day of rest, and that has wide implications for our society.
The third was not to predetermine outcomes, but without being anodyne and lapsing into a kind of ‘Dear God, make us all nice’, which some official prayers have been in danger of doing.
God our Father, you teach us truth and call us to live lives of truth and integrity. We pray for all candidates and party leaders, that they will speak truthfully, honestly and fairly as they make the case for their particular policies.
Lord Jesus, you came in humility, not to be served but to serve and give your life for us. We pray for all who aspire to positions of leadership in our nation, that you will grant them true humility and a spirit of service in the cause of others.
Creator God, you continue to be at work in our world, and are the source of our true rest. Give us a vision for the dignity of work, so that we become a nation where all may use the gifts you have given to contribute to the common good, and all may enjoy rest from work.
Lord Jesus, you came to us with courage and compassion, bringing healing, restoration and forgiveness. Grant to all our leaders compassion for the vulnerable—the homeless, the sick and the unborn—so that they fashion policies that bring security, health and wholeness of life.
Father God, we thank you for the gift of friends, families and neighbours. Help us to discern policies and strategies that will protect and strengthen family life and relationships in our communities, that we might see an end to conflict and loneliness.
God of all the world, grant our leaders wisdom in thinking about policies on immigration, global trade and the environment. May we seek the good of all, and build relationships of mutual benefit, as we act as good stewards of the gift of your creation.
Spirit of God, you have been poured out to make us wise and teach us the difference between what is good and right, and what is wrong and misleading. Give us true discernment in our thinking about our nation and our government. Guide all our conversations, our reflection and our decisions as we cast our vote.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
If you like to use structured prayers written by others, then you can try this alternative written by Michael Sadgrove, the prayer issued by the Methodist Church, or you could easily adapt into a prayer this helpful statement from Philip Mounstephen, bishop of Truro.
One of the struggles in this election, and something which many Christians are finding, is that none of the parties is really addressing issues that need dealing with to reform our nation and govern us wisely so that we might live well. I was grateful for John Stevens’ rebuke that, as Christians talk about politics, we too easily think that salvation will come to us through government policy! But alongside that, we need to think radically about the kind of society God calls us to be to reflect his concerns. If I were to write a manifesto, then it would include the following (in no particular order).
1. Electoral reform, which needs to include replacing our ineffective and polarising ‘first past the post’ system with a well-designed system of Single Transferable Vote. Only this will allow every vote to count, and will eliminate the need for parties to push to the extremes in order to gain support.
2. Changes in election practice. Our current system cannot survive the complexities of our social media age. We need much stricter controls on elections spending (one party received as much in donations as all the others put together; this cannot be right), stronger accountability for those who spread false information, and a banning of opinion polls in the two weeks prior to the election.
3. Overall we need much better local government, with regional decisions devolved to regional government. Our politics is far too London-centred.
4. We urgently need prison reform. We have some of the highest rates of re-offending; repeated Government strategies of ‘lock more people up’ are cruel and do not work; too many of our prisoners have mental health issues which need proper treatment, and too many come from ethnic and religious minorities.
5. The shortage of housing and the cost of house-buying is a scandal. Councils should be reinstated as house builders; there should be specific grants to adapt houses so that the older generation can be looked after by members of their own family; we need reforms to the rental sector so that life-long rental is not seen as a second-class option; there need to be proper controls on foreign investment in housing, which at the moment pushes prices up and leaves properties empty.
6. In education we need to get away from the manufacturing model of ‘added value’, as though pupils were widgets going through an education factory. We need to reduce the culture of over-examination, and abandon the single-track ‘academic’ route which does not meet the needs of many. We need to reclaim the value of craft and practical skills, and provide appropriate routes to that. We should abandon the futile mantra of ‘50% of school leavers going to university’, as it is a waste of time and money for the many who will enter non-graduate jobs, with debt, at the end of their three years.
7. We need to rediscover the importance of manufacturing. People and nations need to make things! We should be investing in manufacturing infrastructure, and shift our corporate tax regime so that companies are rewarded for investment in plant and in skills.
8. Overall, our taxation system needs radical simplification. Our current emphasis in indirect taxation means that the poorest in our nation actually pay a higher proportion of their earnings in tax than the wealthiest. We should have a single, simple taxation system, and shift taxation from indirect to direct forms.
9. Our healthcare system needs a radical review, and this can only be done if it is depoliticised, so that it ceases to be an election football, and we make an honest evaluation of other systems around the world, particularly those that work well in other parts of Europe. Decision-making needs to be given back to healthcare professionals, rather then being left to managers or politicians.
10. We should engage in a long-term process of retooling our arms manufacturers so that they move into other areas of manufacture. We are one of the largest arms exporters in the world—and to our shame, as our weapons are widely used by oppressive regimes, and the arming of the world fuels global conflict.
I would like to see our church leaders speaking out more about such radical ideas, since they all seem to me to be based in historic Christian thinking about society, are all supported by practical arguments about welfare and well being, and there are good examples of all being put into practice.
What manifesto issues would you like to add? Tell me in the comments.
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