Knowing how to pray for India requires a God-sized vision.
In Genesis 12, God’s call to Abraham gives us a God-sized vision that can take our prayer for India beyond wishful words to a confident plea, expecting God’s response.
God intends to make his people conduits of his blessing to the peoples of the world that do not necessarily acknowledge him. Later in the Old Testament we see that this blessing is not merely spiritual, but it is a holistic blessing captured in the Hebrew word, shalom (Jer. 29:7).
This begs the question, “What constitutes a prayer for shalom in India?”
The Vision of Shalom
As the renowned theologian, Cornelius Plantinga puts it, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
This vision of shalom can seem utopian. Nevertheless, when Jesus declared that “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21), his announcement implied that God has already begun ushering shalom into this broken world in substantial ways.
Therefore, we as Christians can boldly pray for shalom in the world around us. However, we will also need to temper our expectations about the exact form this shalom should take since the kingdom of God will reach its culmination only at Christ’s second coming.
A Prayer for Shalom to be Realised
Given this Biblical vision of the kingdom of shalom, Christians need to boldly pray that the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution—justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity—may be actualised in our nation.
Pray for Justice
In praying for justice, we acknowledge that God is just (Deut. 32:4; Psalm 89:14). With him, there is no partiality (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Job 34:19; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Col. 3:25). He takes up the case of the weak and the vulnerable (Ps. 68:5-6; Ps. 140:12; Prov. 31:8-9; Isa. 1:17; James 1:27).
Therefore, we need to pray for a safe environment within the nation, which often tends to be full of crime and health hazards (cf. Ex. 23:25).
Christians can boldly pray for shalom in the world around us
We need to pray for economic prosperity and humane workspaces that enable economic justice for all sections of society. Further, we need to pray for a just social order that is not marked by corruption, nor is weighted against the less privileged in society.
We need to pray that our nation grows into a community that is committed to caring for the weak, the discriminated, and the marginalised—such as the homeless, the immigrants, the elderly, the orphans, the outcasts, and the poor.
Finally, in praying for justice, we need to pray that the gospel of Jesus Christ would bring healing to the victims of injustice (John 8:2-11), and grace to the perpetrators of it (Luke 23:40-43; 1 Tim. 1:5), so that the nation may experience true biblical justice in the spirit of shalom.
Pray for Liberty
In praying for liberty, we acknowledge that God has made each human being with unique stories and capabilities (Ps. 139:14). He desires humans to engage each other with respectful persuasion, where they contradict each other (e.g. Acts 17:22-31; Acts 26:24-29).
We need to pray that while Indian society pursues its collectivistic ideals, it will also encourage each individual’s initiative by respecting each one’s “thought(s), expression(s), belief(s), faith, and worship”.
Also, we need to pray that this liberty enables our nation to rise above majoritarianism and the supremacy of the powerful, and to make room for respectful persuasion by those who may disagree with one another.
Finally, we also need to pray that this value of liberty will make room for the proclamation of the gospel, which brings eternal hope to people who walk in the darkness of sin and Satan.
Pray for Equality
In praying for equality, we acknowledge that God has made everyone equal in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). As such, we should pray they enjoy equal status and opportunity for human flourishing.
Therefore, we need to pray that as a nation we grow in treating everyone with equal dignity, whatever caste or class or socio-economic group the person comes from.
Also, we need to pray that everyone in the nation has equitable access to the resources of human flourishing such as educational institutions, medical services, parks, and recreation.
Pray for Fraternity
In praying for fraternity, we are seeking an environment within which the values of liberty and equality thrive. Therefore, we need to pray for an overall environment of peace within the nation, rather than one characterized by animosity between individuals, language groups, races, caste groups, religious groups, and other socio-economic groups.
We need to pray for social harmony and civility to characterise relationships between different races, religions, and cultures, with mutually respectful moral frameworks for relating with one another.
Again, we need to pray for all the various arms of the government to work for all the citizens of India, rather than serving the interests of the rich and powerful alone.
A Prayer for Shalom to be Shared
While we seek to experience this shalom within the boundaries of the Indian republic, we need to also bear in mind that the God of the Bible intends people of every nation, tribe, and tongue to experience this shalom (Rev. 7:9-10, cf. Ps. 117).
Disciples of Jesus have a significant role in displaying a life and a community marked by true shalom.
Therefore, we need to pray that we as a nation would be generous in sharing the benefits of our shalom with the nations around us that are perhaps struggling in their experience of shalom.
As the first Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru put it, “Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace is said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and also is a disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.”
A Prayer for Fuller Shalom to be Seen
We can substantially experience the values of shalom within the framework set out in the Indian Constitution, as our definition clarifies. However, we can only fully experience this shalom as the “Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.”
Therefore, disciples of Jesus, who have already experienced this welcome of the Saviour, have a significant role in displaying a life and a community marked by true shalom.
Hence, as we pray for our nation to experience the shalom of God’s kingdom, we need to pray also for the people of shalom (the church) to live lives marked by justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity in biblical proportions.
This means that we pray that the church of Jesus in India pursues biblical justice, regularly forgiving each other’s debts as God in Christ has forgiven us.
We need to pray that we exercise Christ’s compassion in championing the liberty of the marginalised and the voiceless sections of society.
We need to pray that we experience gospel redemption so deeply in our communities that the world may see that among us “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28).
Finally, we also need to pray that our fraternity is not exclusive, but is inviting to the outsider. While we experience the riches of Christ’s shalom by grace, we have the privilege of inviting others into this rich shalom.
Therefore, with the apostle Peter, we may joyfully proclaim: “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).