Summary: Prayer, thanksgiving, confession and praise as community activities. Pass it on.
A. C. T. S. OF SOLIDARITY
When I was coming to rebirth as a newborn Christian, I remember our Pastor sharing a well-known acrostic as a guideline for prayer. Thus, A.C.T.S. spells out the words: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It is a familiar device which I even yet, from time to time, fall back upon when I am struggling in prayer.
Looking at our four points in reverse order, and in their respective relationships to solidarity in prayer, we will eventually come to Isaiah 12.
The Apostle Paul exhorts the brethren to ‘pray for us’ (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Similarly, we tell people, ‘I’ll be praying for you.’ This would fall under the head of Supplication, where we were told to pray for others first before ever presenting the Lord with our more personal petitions. We also sometimes pray for people unasked; and indeed pray for those who cannot, or will not, pray for themselves.
Praying for others involves entering into their situation with a measure of solidarity. Thus we can reassure them, ‘You are not in this alone.’ How Jesus yearned for some such empathy on the part of His sleepy disciples as He was pressed beyond measure in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Earlier, Paul had given expression to his sense of compulsion in relation to Thanksgiving: ‘We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren’ (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul here felt obliged to give thanks to God for what He had accomplished in the church, and returned the glory to Him. Likewise, when we are praying for others, we must also include thanksgiving for them.
What about solidarity in relation to Confession: surely a person can only repent for themselves? This, of course, is true. However, there is Biblical precedent for our identifying with the sins of others.
Ultimately Jesus - who was without sin Himself (Hebrews 4:15) - entirely identified with our sin, and with us, when He died on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). There He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).
Our Saviour effectively says of us as Paul would later say of an escaped slave: 'If he has wronged you, or owes you anything, put that on my account' (Philemon 18). This is echoed in Stephen’s attitude as he met a violent death at the hands of his persecutors: ‘Lay not this sin to their charge’ (Acts 7:60).
Which all brings us to the Praise in Isaiah 12.
The motto of the City of Glasgow in Scotland is, ‘Let Glasgow flourish.’ Though rarely known in full, it continues, ‘by the preaching of the Word and the praising of His Name.’ So not only does the Word of the Lord pass from mouth to mouth, but also His Praise.
We see this solidarity of praise in Isaiah 12.
The writer witnesses to the reader:
“you (singular) shall say, ‘I will praise thee…
God is my (singular) salvation…’” (Isaiah 12:1-2).
The individual’s praise proves infectious to those around. From Isaiah 12:3, “you” is no longer singular - it embraces the whole community:
“Therefore with joy shall ye (plural) draw water…
And ye (plural) shall say,
‘Praise the LORD… make mention that His Name is exalted’” (Isaiah 12:3-4).
The community is not content to sing praises in a corner, but encourages others to join in their joyful song:
“Sing unto the LORD; for He has done excellent things: this is known in all the earth…
the Holy One of Israel is in the midst of his people” (Isaiah 12:5-6).
Pass it on, and tell those others to pass it on. Pass it on to the whole community. Pass it on to all the nations, until ‘the whole earth is full of the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14).