Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prayer for immigration reform as a means to growing in love

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Assistant Professor of Religion and Pieper Chair of Servant Leadership at Ripon College.

The General Board of Church and Society (along with other American churches) has recently launched a "40 Days of Prayer for Immigration Reform" program.  The program includes weekly themes for congregational prayer each Sunday, along with scripture readings, other readings, fasting, and lobbying activities.  The weekly readings include personal stories from immigrants.  While the first Sunday was, I believe, last Sunday, it's not too late to get involved.

As this blog has pointed out before, immigration is an important global issue for United Methodists in the United States.  The increase in migration around the world is often cited as one aspect of globalization in recent decades.  Immigration determines in part how Americans relate to people from around the world, primarily but by no means exclusively Latin America.

Praying for the issue of immigration reform, especially when we do so after hearing the personal stories of immigrants, has the opportunity to change how we think about and feel toward immigrants.  Praying for not just immigration (as an issue) but immigrants (as people) can help us better recognize their community humanity with us and therefore help us cultivate love for them.  Prayer has the power to transform our hearts, growing us toward perfect love, as God desires for us as part of the process of our sanctification.

Yet if we further cultivate divine love of others in our prayers, we can be led to love not just those from other countries who have come here, but those who have stayed in their home countries as well.  If we can recognize our common humanity with Guatemalan-Americans and Korean-Americans and Nigerian-Americans, then perhaps we can also recognize our community humanity with and divine call to love Guatemalans and Koreans and Nigerians.

If we can start praying for the issue of immigration to the United States and end up praying for the well-being of God's people across the globe, then we will indeed have been transformed through prayer in ways that will make us closer to God and freer to share God's love with the world.

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