Matters for Prayer
The Bible tells us, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). That is the way in which we obtain God's blessings. There are personal and family needs which we cannot meet ourselves, and so we are bound to make continual request to the Lord, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11). The sad spiritual and moral condition of our land today demands our constant petitioning too. Do we yearn to see the church flourish again through the preaching of the gospel? Do we desire to see our nation exalted by righteousness once more, rather than sinking further into sin? Then our repeated plea must be, "Thy kingdom come!" (Matt. 6:10).
There are two important matters in different parts of the UK which we should especially remember in prayer this week, alongside the many other things we seek to remember. One is in the courts and the other is in parliament.
Named Person scheme
The Named Person scheme, a provision of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014, is due to come into force in August this year (pilot schemes are already operating in various parts of the country). The scheme puts in place a 'state guardian' for every child until the age of eighteen.
Many concerns have been expressed about the scheme. Among them are the following: the danger that the Named Person's assessment of a child's "wellbeing" or "happiness" will be influenced by the individual's bias; the possibility that the Named Person will interact with the child in isolation from the parents, promoting ideas and values which are contrary to the parents' beliefs; the fear that sensitive personal data will be gathered and shared, without the knowledge or permission of parents; the fact that there is no provision for parents to opt out of the scheme.
A coalition of Christian and other organisations has been challenging the scheme in the courts. The initial challenge in the Outer House of the Court of Session was dismissed in January 2015. An appeal against this decision was dismissed in the Inner House of the Court of Session in September 2015. A final appeal is now to be heard in the Supreme Court, beginning today (8th March) and continuing tomorrow.
The Christian Institute is funding the case and in a recent mailing makes this request: "Pray that our appeal to the Supreme Court would be successful, and that the Named Person scheme will not be implemented." May the Lord in His mercy grant such an outcome! It seems that if the appeal fails then it is possible that the case may be pursued further, in the European Court of Human Rights.
Sunday trading laws
In November the UK Government, facing a probable defeat, withdrew provisions it had included in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill to allow local authorities and elected mayors in England and Wales to extend Sunday trading hours. The Government has now made amendments to the Enterprise Bill to achieve what it failed to do last year. While the Scottish National Party indicated initially that they would oppose these amendments, it appears that they have now reached some compromise with the Government and will abstain instead. There is a growing number of Conservative MPs however who intend to vote against the amendments.
Although these amendments would apply only to England and Wales, it is likely that if they are put into effect then UK-wide companies with outlets in Scotland will make use of the change to place further pressure on their employees in Scotland to work on the Sabbath. It is also clear that if shops open for longer hours on the Lord's Day then this would affect not only retail staff but also people who work in such areas as security, cleaning, distribution and transport. We believe that everyone requires a day of rest and that harmful consequences follow when it is removed.
Above and beyond the concerns we may have regarding personal freedom and family life is the fact that God has set His seal upon 'Sunday'. He has done this in the fourth commandment. Under the Old Testament God claimed the seventh day of the week for Himself; it marked His resting from the work of creation and so we may speak of 'the Sabbath'. Under the New Testament He claims the first day of the week as His own; it marks the completion of Christ's work of redemption as demonstrated by His glorious resurrection and so we may now also speak of the Sabbath as 'the Lord's Day'.
It is wrong that there should be any trading on the Sabbath, for the Word of God states: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) Commercial activities should be restricted to the six working days of the week, as the fourth commandment itself provides. If we engage in trade on the Sabbath then we profane what is holy and provoke God to anger. The state should be the guardian of the Sabbath: it should be "shutting the gates" to all trading on that day (Neh. 13:19-22), not opening them further to it.
Voting on the crucial amendment is due to take place tomorrow (9th March). May the Lord intervene to preserve what remains in our midst of the public observance and benefits of the Sabbath, which was "made for man" (Mark 2:27).
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." (1 Timothy 2:1,2)