Displaying items by tag: Hope for the Countryside
At the time of writing, 11 of 14 English Environment Agency areas have declared a drought. Spain’s olive oil production is devastated, and French wine making is threatened (Haggai 1:10-11). The provision of grain, oil, food and energy are challenged. Farmers are in the front line: lost harvests, grazing or planting new crops, and livestock being fed as if it is winter already. This will increasingly impact all relying on agriculture and related industries. Thus, the challenge grows for faithful obedience and wholehearted trust in the Lord, for who He is and not just as provider. Ask the Lord to strengthen believers in this season so we may display faithfulness, generosity, hope and stability to those around us, prompting them to seek the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15; Psalm 27:13). May we encourage one another and look to the Lord to supply all our needs, whether He sends drought or rain.
This issue departs from core concerns to pray for Ukraine. Agriculture is the largest sector of Ukraine's economy (10% of GDP and 41% of total exports in 2021). Ukraine supplies 10% of the world’s wheat; Russia a further 18% . The war and sanctions will severely disrupt Ukrainian and Russian agricultural production and trade, with profound effects on national and global food supplies, especially hitting lower-income countries reliant on imports from these countries. It will also impact farming and food in the UK. Pray for Ukrainian and Russian farmers, and for all whose livelihoods rely on farming and food production in every country affected. The bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (USA) have issued this prayer: ‘We beseech Your lovingkindness and abundant blessings upon the nation - the people - of Ukraine during these days of great danger to their safety and wellbeing’.
A recent report concluded that 36% of farming people in England and Wales were 'probably or possibly depressed', 52% 'experienced pain and discomfort', 25% had 'mobility problems', and 58% of women in the sector said they 'experienced mild, moderate or severe anxiety'. The most common sources of stress were regulations, compliance and inspection, Covid, unpredictable weather, and loss of subsidies. In response the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution has launched two new mental-health support and counselling services. Pray for all agencies and individuals who are providing farming people with practical and moral support. Also, rural CofE churches report that ‘clergy and congregations are increasingly pessimistic about the long-term future of their churches’. Leadership was seen as a critical issue. However, through Covid, it seems the Lord has ‘sifted’ His church: some have fallen away, but others have drawn closer to Him.
In a recent TV documentary series, the presenter met people living and working in various locations in Cumbria, from high on the fells to the rivers, flood plains, and urban settings. In one episode he met a young man aged 19 running the family farm with the help of just two friends following the tragic death of both his parents. Meanwhile young people from Brathay, an impoverished coastal town, who had little to do and few expectations or encouragement, found new abilities and achievements learning to sail, navigate and work as a team. Give thanks for the inspiration and example these young people demonstrated. Pray that others find purpose, healing and hope through engagement with the land and rural life; also pray for a growing understanding and respect among the younger generation from town and country, investment for young people in farming and rural communities.
Brexit is having both expected and unexpected impacts on trade in agricultural and food products, and is blamed even when other factors may be at play (current fisheries dispute, lorry drivers shortage, increased red tape and costs in trading with the EU). Trade thrives on trust. Honesty and fairness in buying and selling are pleasing to God and make for a good society (Leviticus 19:36). Pray for all seeking to resolve trade disputes and for all affected by them, for peace, truth and equity to prevail in trade negotiations, and for Christians in trade to shine as lights of integrity and reconciliation. The UK's net zero strategy will profoundly impact farming and the countryside. The Lord has promised ‘seed time and harvest while the earth remains’ but holds us responsible for our stewardship of the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:15; Revelation 11:18). Unlike some of today’s environmentalists, we have a message of hope. Large numbers of Christians are praying and present at COP26.
This year, all three of the biblical autumn feasts (Leviticus 23:23-43) take place in September. The Feast of Trumpets on 6-7 September is followed by the Day of Atonement on 15-16 September and the Feast of Tabernacles on 20-27 September. Among much else, Tabernacles is a 'harvest festival', celebrating the ‘ingathering’ of the summer harvest (Exodus 23:16). Just as the spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost) were fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming and by the sending of the Holy Spirit, so the autumn feasts will be fulfilled by His return, the gathering of His people to meet Him, the redemption of Israel, and the Messianic Age. As we celebrate this year’s harvest, both from the fields and of those who have been added to His Kingdom, give thanks that God is working His purpose out and that the time draws ever nearer when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Hab. 2:14).
From 19 June to 4 September, mission teams from Through Faith Mission are walking the ‘Via Beata’ footpath through the countryside of central England and Wales. The teams are going out literally without bread or money and no agenda or programme, trusting the Lord to provide both their needs and opportunities to share the gospel and serve others (Matthew 10:1-15; Luke 10:1-20). By mid-June, around 100 people had signed up for one or more of the eleven weeks. A similar number have pledged to pray. Join them in praying that the Lord will use the teams to bring the hope of the Gospel to many in the countryside of Britain and encourage rural churches along the way and add to their number. Also you are invited to join ‘Hope Countryside Online Prayer Gathering’ on 31 July, where intercession will be for the churches and communities for rural Britain. See
In June, hay meadows burst forth in a glorious blaze of colour. For centuries, flower-rich hay meadows were a defining feature of our countryside, providing hay for livestock through the winter and essential habitats for many different flora, fauna and fungi. In the 20th century, however, most hay meadows gave way to more intensively managed grassland. But they can be restored by ‘impoverishing’ the soil (withholding grazing, cutting hay later in the season, and sowing a semi-parasitic plant called hay rattle). Likewise, the Lord uses discipline to refine us; then, in time, we blossom and bear fruit to His praise and glory. Give thanks for the beauty of our meadows and for the way they reflect the glory of their Creator. Give thanks to the One who sends the rain to water the meadows and whose coming was, is, and will be, ‘like rain upon the meadows’.
As Nick James of the Animal Health Agency reported at our April prayer gathering, the recent round of bird flu is over and there has been good progress in the battle against bovine TB. At the same event, one family said that their farm was finally clear of TB after being shut down for fifteen months. Give thanks for answered prayers. Pray for livestock farmers who have suffered outbreaks of these diseases or feel threatened by future outbreaks. Pray that the agency will be alert to future threats (including approaching swine fever).
23 April is St George’s Day. National identity is controversial in our contemporary culture, but belonging to a nation is important to many people. Solzhenistsyn saw nations as the wealth of mankind. Dostoevsky saw them as moral personalities. God Himself created the nations and determines their boundaries. Rural land plays a special role in our nations, providing a concrete focus for abstract ideas of national identity. Give thanks for the distinctiveness and unity of the nations of the UK and for their diverse and beautiful landscapes. Pray for the Lord to prosper the particular gifts and callings of each nation. As many seek independence, pray for the future of the United Kingdom. Pray especially that believers, whose first citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, will be effective salt and light, reaching out to all nations with loving intercession and mission, whatever our political relationships.