I have been practicing a (mostly, pretty consistent) daily quiet time of prayer and Bible reading, now, just over thirty-seven years. I’ve read the Bible completely through at least thirty times in these QT hours over these years. And, yet, it took me until 2006, twenty-eight years since I began in 1978, to hear (read) that there is a relationship between my prayers, God hearing them, and my hearing the cries of the poor. Proverbs 21:13 points this out to us:
"He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
The writer of the proverb understood this from God’s first word to the Israelites just after their exodus out of Egypt and the giving of the ten-words (most call them the "ten commandments"). It did not take long after God had delivered Israel from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh to connect their existence to the widow, orphan, and the stranger (i.e., foreigner/alien). Moses indicated that association in his explanation of the ten-words:
"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless" (Exodus 22:21–24).
Actually the texts that followed the ten-words in Exodus 20 are filled with references to the poor and how God’s newly called and delivered people were to associate and treat them. There is a dynamic association between our relationship with God, and particularly our prayers, and our association with the poor. We are assured our own prayerful cries are heard by God when we hear the cries of the poor.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.