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4 Reminders to Pray for Justice in a Hurting World

4 Reminders to Pray for Justice in a Hurting World

As Christians, we are to leave vengeance to God, but He made us inclined toward action. To say a prayer for justice can feel like inaction, but what if we were granted an audience with the most powerful leader in the community, state, or nation in the face of wrongdoing?  We would go and make our appeal, and it would not feel as if we’d done nothing. When we pray for justice to our Creator God, we are making our case before the Highest Power in the universe.

God calls us to enact justice when it is within our power (Micah 6:8), but the greater injustices are too often outside our human influence to redress. The people of God have suffered injustice throughout their existence. Many Christians around the world are treated unjustly even today because of the name of Jesus. We sometimes suffer daily injustices based on things about us we can’t change or because we encounter others who are largely out for only themselves.  People all around us suffer injustice, whether they follow Jesus or not, and as we witness their pain, we may feel helpless and small, but God has given us an avenue to appeal on their behalf.

Now, it’s true that justice can get confusing on this side of Glory. Our prayers can be muddled in a world with much deception and where people imagine themselves victims with sometimes very little evidence or cause. This is all the more reason to bring these cases before God, as He is perfect, knows all truth, and judges rightly.

Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (ESV).

Deuteronomy 32:4 reads, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (ESV).

So, how do we go about praying for justice? What can the Bible tell us about this process?

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man praying, prayer for justice

Why Do We Give Prayers for Justice If God Already Knows Everything?

If it’s already God’s plan to set everything right, and if He already knows everything perfectly, why should we continue to pray for justice?

Max Lucado writes that part of the reason is part of our calling and cites Isaiah 62:6-7:

“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.  You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”

This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching about persistence in prayer.

One reason, as we witness in God’s exchanges with men like Abraham, Job, and Habakkuk, is that God continually calls us into a relationship involving dialog. As we pray about injustice and search the Scriptures for God’s guidance and reassurance, we learn what justice means and the patience of waiting in faith. Paul tells us that believers will one day judge angels, indeed the world (1 Corinthians 6:2-6). Perhaps our times of wrestling in prayer help us learn discernment and wisdom. We know from Revelation 8 that our prayers reach God’s ears and are held until the proper time.

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What Prayers for Justice Do We See in the Old Testament?

Psalm 72 is a prayer for justice. Whether written by Solomon or for Solomon by his father David at the end of David’s reign, this is a powerful template for praying for our leaders, for our nation, and for the coming kingdom.

Likely sung at Solomon’s coronation, it opens with these words:

“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!” (Psalm 72:1-2 ESV)

In Genesis 18:16-33, God has heard an outcry against the violence committed by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. In His conversation with Abraham, we see a wonderful example of Abraham interceding for any righteous people still living in these two cities. God grants that if there are as few as ten righteous men in the city, He will hold back, but as we know, He grants mercy only to Lot and his family. This prayer demonstrates the process of intercession and assures us God hears us.

In Habakkuk, again, we witness a man crying out to God, interceding for his people and calling for justice. He asks how long God will tarry and describes what they are experiencing:

“So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4 ESV)

Interestingly, this prayer is also presented as a dialogue with God, reminding the prophet that the righteous live by faith:

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3 ESV)

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What Prayers for Justice Do We See in the New Testament?

Luke 11:1-4 explains that when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, he instructs them to pray like this:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”  

The prayer may not specifically mention praying for justice, but Jesus follows this model prayer by instructing his disciples to pray persistently to God, for he will answer (Luke 11:5-13). From this story, we know that when we pray (for justice, for provision, etc.), we can be assured that God hears our prayers. 

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus again teaches us to be persistent in our prayers. Using a parable of a widow asking justice from a hardened judge, he shows what that looks like in the context of seeking justice. She is very direct in her request: “‘Give me justice against my adversary’ (v 3). She persists, and eventually, the judge relents. By this parable, we know we must pray for justice with our full hearts, but we don’t need elaborate words.

In Revelation 6:10, John saw those souls martyred in Jesus’ name crying out using words similar to Habakkuk: “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” We can use their words in our prayers but must also remember that they were told to wait.

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Man in prayer, prayer for justice

What If Our Prayers for Justice Don’t Get Answers We Want?

God’s justice is not always swift. Many of us will have to wait until the day of judgment to receive justice. But, we have strong Scriptural assurance in our waiting.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God, for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12 ESV)

Revelation 8 tells us that at the breaking of the seventh seal in heaven, the prayers of the saints are mixed with incense and rise before God from the hand of an angel. With what follows next, it’s reasonable to imagine that many are outcries from suffering and prayers for justice.

When justice does not appear for us as soon as we desire, we must remind ourselves of God’s nature, character, and love for justice. We only see our small part of the great story of God’s relationship with humanity and don’t know everything He is working out in our waiting, but we can trust that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him, as He promised in Romans 8:28.

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Hands praying, prayer for justice

Should Prayers for Justice Feature Repentance?

It is certainly only the prideful person who prays for justice without first repenting of their own sins. It can be no coincidence that Jesus warned us in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (that immediately follows the Parable of the Persistent Widow) in Luke 18:9-14 that it is the humble person whose prayers are heard.

Understand that we may be the victims of unrighteousness and have nothing to confess about the person or people who have wronged us. Still, before God, we are sinners, and it is to Him that we make our confessions. Daniel prayed on behalf of his people, living in exile, in Daniel 9:1-19. Humanly speaking, they were living as captives and experiencing injustice, but before God, Daniel confessed their sins, and he was heard.

Psalm 25:9 tells us God leads the humble to understand justice and to walk rightly. In Daniel 10:12, the prophet is assured his prayers were heard because he humbled himself.

Job, who suffered terribly and made his questions known to God, repented in Job 42:1-6 after acknowledging his faith in God’s character and trust in Him. Shortly after that, God restores all that Job has lost.

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Prayer Quotes, prayer for justice

How Do We Pray for Justice Today?

Until Jesus returns, there will be opportunities for injustice on the earth. However, that doesn’t mean we sit idly by and watch it happen.

Here are four things to remember as we pray for, and seek, justice today.

  1. When acting is within our power, we must see that wise, godly justice is administered.
  2. We are to pray and not give up or lose heart, trusting that God hears and will act in His time.
  3. Remember that God often acts on our prayers even when we can’t see. Daniel interceded for his people his entire life. God moved, but Daniel was an old man before anything came about.
  4. What justice looks like can be complicated, so it’s wise to pray using Scripture or the words of others who have gone before us to guide our own thoughts and our hearts.

For more thoughts on justice, check out the following:

Should Christians Make Prayers for Justice?

A Heartfelt Prayer for Justice

Why Should Christians Seek Justice Instead of Revenge?

25 Prayers for Justice

How Does God’s Mercy and Justice Work Together in Salvation?

11 Prayers for Justice

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Lori Stanley RoeleveldLori Stanley Roeleveld is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits. She’s authored six encouraging, unsettling books, including Running from a Crazy Man, The Art of Hard Conversations, and Graceful Influence: Making a Lasting Impact through Lesson from Women of the Bible. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com

4 Reminders to Pray for Justice in a Hurting World