In calling a Referendum, the Government has given us, the people of Britain, an opportunity to vote on the future relationship of Britain with the European Union. At this significant time of decision in the history of Britain we have a responsibility, as the people of God, to use our vote wisely after proper, prayerful consideration.
What is our starting point as we endeavour to discern the will of God? If we are purely focused on the specific question of how to vote, we risk missing what God has to say to His Church and to the nations right now. Last year, there was an unprecedented level of united prayer prior to the General Election. The prayer was not focused on who to vote for but rather that the will of God be done. In faith, we trust that God is working His purposes out, and will continue to do so in the measure that His people, who are called by His Name will humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways.
Britain and Europe
Britain is part of the continent of Europe. However, Britain has a distinct history and, confirmed by history, a unique and distinct call and inheritance from God. Since the 9th century AD, British government and legal systems have been built upon the foundations of Judaeo-Christian belief, thought and practice. Over the centuries, God’s law took priority over man’s law. For this reason all the key British institutions and indeed the fabric of our society originated in a moral as well as legal framework. This is different to Europe, where legal codes are largely based on Roman law concepts. An example of this is that the continental approach to law starts from the proposition that only what the law expressly allows is permitted; this is in contrast to English common law which allows anything that the law does not prohibit.
Britain has been used by God to take the Gospel across the world and with it the outworking of Christian values for society. As countries once part of the British Empire sought independence, the Commonwealth emerged in which there was a particular relationship between Britain and its former colonies which shared values of democracy, human rights and rule of law. This special but informal relationship with Commonwealth nations was superseded by Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC), also known as the Common Market, in 1973. Although the initial body of nations was formed on the basis of trade agreement and, in post war Europe, an aspiration of peace, there was at the outset, a stated political aim for integration of the European nations. This has been progressed through a series of treaties through which the European Union emerged with new powers in the areas of foreign and domestic policy. The philosophy that underpins the European Union is secular and humanist in its origins and outlook. This article will not endeavour to cover the various arguments for and against Britain’s membership of the EU. There is further helpful factual information about the EU, its history and structure on the website www.civitas.org.uk/eu-facts.
It is important to be properly informed about the various factors involved in Britain’s relationship with the European Union. However, as the people of God, our searching should be primarily directed to discerning the will of God. The world can provide us with facts, but only the Spirit of God will lead us into Truth.
What is the real issue?
Britain is in crisis. In January 2015 the Maranatha Community presented a prophetic call at a consultation in Parliament. Entitled ‘A Matter of Life or Death – The Struggle for the Soul of Our Nation’, it gave factual information about the state of our nation, asserting that the crisis, which is evidenced socially, economically and morally, is fundamentally spiritual. The Judaeo-Christian foundations upon which Britain has been built have been systematically undermined and the fabric of our society, and the institutions which are part and parcel of it, are in danger of collapse.
Europe is in crisis. Those on both sides of the Referendum debate agree the simple fact that the enormous bureaucracy of the EU is not working. The all-powerful EU Commission is an undemocratic body which is largely unaccountable and operates at supranational level. The financial affairs of the EU are extremely complex and its accounts have not been approved by the auditors for 19 years. It is perhaps significant to note that, whilst the rest of the world is seeing a huge growth in Christian faith, this is not the case in Europe. Ravi Zacharias says, prophetically, “The culture in which we find ourselves is in turmoil…the West is engaged in a momentous battle, one in which it is risking its very soul”.
Whether Britain leaves or remains part of the EU will not alter the fact that all European nations will continue to be affected by the ongoing situation with migrants from the Middle East. Many see this as a threat, but it is also a time of great opportunity for the spread of the Gospel. At the same time Britain cannot be isolated from what is to become of Greece. The financial instability of Europe affects more than just EU nation states.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, there will be serious challenges to face both for us as a union of nations – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland – and as a part of Europe, which includes the Republic of Ireland. Are we, the Church in Britain, ready to respond to the aftermath of the Referendum?
So, what is the real issue from a Kingdom perspective? The Proverb rightly says “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29.18 KJV). Those involved in the theatre of media debate are all presenting negative arguments. Sadly, so are some within the Church. What is God’s vision for Britain and for Europe? What is our vision? It is in the midst of crisis that we discover God’s time of opportunity. Will we, the Church of Christ, proclaim the hope of the Gospel and the vision of God’s Kingdom into the midst of the confusion, uncertainty and indifference?
Discerning the will of God
Amidst questions about economy, political union, sovereignty, defence, immigration, the environment and the spiritual influences involved, it is important for us to ask questions that will lead us nearer to the heart of God.
What impact will a decision to leave or remain have upon the younger and future generations of Britain? What effect will a vote either way have upon our relationships with the nations that make up Britain? What impact will a vote to leave or remain have upon the relationship of Britain to the Republic of Ireland? Are we open to hear discernment from Christians in Europe? The purpose of these questions is not so much to decide on an answer but, rather, to ensure that our hearts are open to all those who will be affected by the Referendum result and especially to those who hold a different view to our own. An open heart is a heart open to revelation from God.
Similarly, we should beware of the temptation to apply human interpretation to any understanding we may have, even through God’s revelation. Scripture provides plenty of examples of the way in which God leads His people to do that which is counter-intuitive. His ways and His thoughts are completely different and very much higher than ours! His desire is that His people listen and obey.
What does the Bible say about the will of God? Paul describes the mystery of God’s will as “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1.10). Jesus teaches us to pray to our Father “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is heaven” (Matt. 6.10). For this to happen Jesus prayed that His followers be one, with the model for that oneness being His relationship with God the Father. The oneness of the Body of Christ is essential for the putting into effect of God’s will on earth. Paul received the revelation that God’s will would be effected by a Church which is fully functioning as one body, through which “..the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3.10). The Church is God’s chosen instrument in the spiritual battle which is escalating across the nations and the unity of His Church, under the Lordship of Jesus, is the key.
God’s will regarding Britain’s relationship with the European Union will not be brought into effect through pursuit of the answer to the question of whether we leave or remain. It will be effected in the measure that we, His people, humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways AS ONE.
Put another way, God’s will is that the Church wakes up to its responsibility for the future of Britain and enters into the real battle for the life and soul of our nation.
How should we pray?
- In unity with the whole Body of Christ – as in the world, the EU debate is a divisive issue for the Church. Our unity does not come from or depend upon all Christians holding the same view. Let us pray for strengthening of the bonds of unity with brothers and sisters in Christ across national boundaries, between England, Scotland, Wales and all of Ireland as well as with Christians of all traditions throughout Europe.
- Using the prayer that Jesus taught us – this prayer has been prayed by believers for the last 2000 years. Many have prayed it at midday over recent years as an offering of united prayer for our nation. Let us pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom and for His will to be done as children united in His one Family.
- For true humbling of ourselves, God’s people, called by his Name – this requires us to lay down our understanding and convictions, simply asking for God’s mercy on our nation as we seek His face and pray for His will to be done.
- In confession and repentance – for our apathy and indifference as God’s people in Britain, for our sin and the sin of the church in Britain.
- For the Church to lead the way of righteousness – that we, as God’s people, would demonstrate the Love and Grace of God in all relationships, especially in our attitude towards other people groups. Let us pray for the elimination of xenophobia and anti-Semitism throughout Britain and Europe.
- For the proclamation of the Gospel and a new move of God’s Spirit – that the vision of God’s Kingdom will be effectively communicated by the Church. Let us pray that it will captivate the hearts and minds of the people, especially the young.
- For the Church to be seen to be offering a positive vision for the future – that the Church will be inspired by, and receive the grace to communicate a vision for society, communities, and a healthy nation.
Gathering to Pray
The Lord has sent many missionaries from all over the world to Britain. They have been faithful to their calling and have prayed fervently for this land. At the same time, God is raising up and anointing the younger generation (who will be most affected by the outcome of the Referendum) to renew and lead the Church.
In the Maranatha Community we are responding to a specific prompting on how to pray in preparation for the Referendum. At a special gathering, on Saturday 4th June, at Brunswick Parish Church, Brunswick Street, Manchester, M13 9TQ, there will be a morning of prayer led by Christians from overseas, including Europe. Following a shared lunch we will be joined by families, children and young people for a further time of united worship and prayer. All are welcome. It is hoped that there will be other similar gatherings in other parts of the country. Further information can be obtained from the Maranatha office 0161 748 4858.
20th April 2016
A BIG responsibility indeed !!!!
I found this very helpful! It is the most balanced view I have seen yet! Thank you, Carol Stanley
It seems to me that the “In or Out” debate is very Godless – almost all seem to say OUT to God and very very few welcome God INTO the Referendum debate. Church leaders seem more anxious not to offend their congregations than to encourage prayer.
Stockport Prayer Breakfast (shifted for cost reasons away from Stockport Town Hall to St Mary’s in the Market Place) on Thursday 26th May will be a time of prayer for our nation at the time of the Referendum.
The invitation says: –
You are aware of the importance of the Referendum on Britain’s future, yet no doubt overwhelmed by the complexity of the arguments, claims and counter claims. Whatever you think, it seems that Prayer is pushed OUT and Christians know that God must be IN the referendum.
Thank you Linda for this most helpful and stimulating piece. Hope to be with you at Brunswick Street on the 4th June. John Tame
Thank you Linda. It’s helpful to be reminded to focus on Christ and not the divisive question the referendum asks. When we prayerful seek Him we know that he will guide us on the right path.
To me I hear God saying; ‘choose you this day whom you will serve, God or Mammon? Europe has all the symbols of idol worship with the stars of the queen of heaven and the unfinished tower of Babel. Times will be rough whether we stay in or go but I would rather be under His protection. The Father says; who will you choose’. Thelma Wood.
Thank you Linda for your thoughts on how to pray. However, I do have a few comments on your description of the EU. The origins are neither secular nor humanist. The founders were Christian Democrats who wanted the new community to have a moral foundation based on Christian values. Of course, it has become secular as our nation has. The motivation was peace and the first treaty – The European Coal and Steel Treaty, 1951-was intended to make war between France and Germany materially impossible. I wouldn’t describe the European Commission as enormous. 32,966 people are employed, compared with 2.7 million in central government here (and 5.7m in the UK public sector in total). Neither is it all powerful. It is a civil service. It proposes drafts, but legislation is decided by the European Parliament and the European Council (national government ministers). It is accountable to the European Parliament and can be sacked by them. It can be overruled by the European Court of Justice. More information on the history can be found in ‘A soul for the union’ by Ben Ryan at http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk or ‘Deeply Rooted’ by Jeff Fountain. When we think about our history, it would be good to acknowledge that Christianity came to Britain via Ireland and the Romans, that we were deeply impacted by the Reformation in Europe, and that the Moravians influenced Wesley. I like your comments on how to pray and look forward to praying with you.