“We are here today,” declared Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup, “because of men and women in Singapore, in the past, whose prayers God had answered.”
The Methodist Bishop was speaking in his role as President of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) at the 10th National Day Thanksgiving Service (NDTS), held at St. Andrew’s Cathedral on 14 August this year.
Referring to Psalm 9 and Psalm 10, he noted that both psalms are prayers to God that speak of oppression by enemies, and also of how God rescues the oppressed and defeats their enemies.
“But in the very centre of it all, God is there. God would bring about justice.”
However, we often think that justice seems so slow in coming – or that it would not come at all, or come too late. Even the psalmist cries out that justice has not yet come; the wicked abuse the weak and mock God but seem to prosper, and the oppressed feel helpless and forgotten.
We see this even today, in events all around the world: brutal rapes in India, the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine by rocket fire, the senseless killing and beheading of minorities by terrorists in Iraq and Syria. “It is not inappropriate for us to ask: When will it all end? Will it ever end?”
In the midst of oppression and injustice as described in the psalms, the psalmist was lamenting to God. This indicates confidence in God’s salvation
– he would only do that because he believed that God would, could, and does intervene.
“God works even today to set things right. How does He do that? How would He respond?” The Bishop pointed out that the biblical narrative was filled with persons whom God called his anointed ones, to bring about hope and deliverance: among them Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus.
“How does God bring about restoration, righteousness and justice? He sends people!”
“Even as we are praying and expecting God to bring about justice, righteousness and judgment in answer to our prayers, it is also important to know that we may be the answers to our own prayers. If we pray for justice and righteousness, we may be the very agents that God may call to bring about these. If not in Singapore, perhaps for the rest of the world.”
In Singapore, we have not had to experience the tragedies that we see others experiencing. The Bishop noted that about 40 years ago, there were already people praying for Singapore, and this has continued with movements such as the Global Day of Prayer (which seeks to gather 50,000 Christians in the Sports Hub next year, Singapore’s 50th, to pray for the nation). He said: “I believe that because of all these prayer movements and groups around Singapore, God has answered our prayer.”
The Bishop noted that as a nation who has received so many blessings, we ought to give – especially in the area of sending people, which was harder than collecting and giving money. “Even as we continue to intercede for Singapore and the world, we must ready ourselves to be the answer to our own prayers – being ready to become His agents wherever He may send us.”
Indeed, as the congregation earlier sang: “Bless Singapore our home with peace, And make us a blessing to the nations near and far.”
It was heartening to see Christians from various denominations and churches joined in corporate prayer for the nation of Singapore, in one voice though expressed through various tongues.
From a majestic orchestral fanfare to a moving guitar solo to the rich timbre of various choirs, the Church offered its best praise to the Lord. The ‘Boat Song’ by the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Choir was a delight to experience, with its rowing actions and lively beat. The Bishop remarked: “What I look forward to every year at the NDTS is the variety of worship experience we have here… it is part of the rich heritage and tradition of the churches in Singapore.”
An annual event organised by the NCCS, this year’s NDTS saw the sanctuary packed to overflowing with worshippers. May we continue to return, year after year, to worship and intercede with our fellow Christians, and be ready as God’s agents to fill the needs of the world!
Photos courtesy of the National Council of Churches of Singapore
Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for most of her life.