January is observed as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Since at least 2005, Women of the ELCA participants have been actively working to end human trafficking. Some participants work on education and awareness, in the church, in school settings, in the community. Others provide support to agencies helping women to leave or who have left human trafficking. Still others are working to change laws that criminalize the victims of trafficking.
At the Eleventh Triennial Convention (2021), the voting members adopted a resolution setting the four weeks prior to the annual NFL Super Bowl as a time of prayer to end human trafficking and called on women of this organization engage in prayer. With the 2024 Super Bowl happening on Sunday, February 11, we’re offering daily prayers, one week at a time. They can be prayed individually or in group settings. Use them at circle meetings or other any gathering of people of faith. May they inspire you and others to engage in the difficult work of ending human trafficking.
In addition to materials offered by Women of the ELCA, many resources are available online. They can be found with a simple search in a web browser. They include the federal Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons, The Polaris Project, and the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Prayers for the week of January 14
Sunday, January 14
Ever-loving God, the problems of the world feel insurmountable. I am brokenhearted at the news of women trafficked. These are women just like me. Women with dreams and hopes. Women who deserve to have their lives honored. But it feels like such a big problem, and I don’t know where to start. And some days my problems feel insurmountable. How can I take care of myself and others? Yet, you don’t ask me to save the world. You ask me to bring love right where I am. To offer one small thing: a phone call to a representative, the lighting of a candle, praying by name for missing and indigenous women, and sharing information to bring awareness to human trafficking. Help me to take one small step, one action done in love, and to trust that you will turn my offerings into an abundance of grace and healing. Amen.
Monday, January 15
God who counts the number of our hairs, we come to you as your marvelous creations — loved and honored by you. From the tips of our toes to the top of our heads you designed us in your image. Help us realize our belovedness and beauty just as we are; to look upon our eyes, hands, and feet and see your fingerprints. And then teach us to turn our gaze to others — the child ripped from her family, the teenager forced to work for others, the siblings longing to be reunited. May we see their belovedness. Let us lead with courage in honoring the sanctity of all lives. May we never rest until victims of trafficking are brought to healing and wholeness. Amen.
Tuesday, January 16
Lord of all knowledge, we are bombarded with news, information, updates, and images. Your world is ever before us, yet because so much is vying for our attention we tend to turn away from distress and heartache. Sometimes we are numb. Sometimes we are outraged. Sometimes we feel hopeless. Sometimes we are moved to prayer and action. May we be discerning in what and who we listen to, aware that all too often words can be misconstrued. Let us look for truth. Let us listen with openness. Let us be inspired to act. Let our hearts be broken for the harm inflicted upon others. Let our cries move us to action for the children taken, for the families torn apart, for the agencies working day and night, for the missing and murdered indigenous women. May we hold close to your word — Jesus — God with us; the Word that from the beginning brought light into the darkness. In all that we see and hear, God, may we feel your heartbeat beating for all the world with justice and mercy. Amen.
Wednesday, January 17
God of our rising and our waking, be with the agencies and individuals who tirelessly work to end human trafficking. Give them strength to continue fighting for victims. Give them perseverance in setbacks, lack of funding, or misinformation. Keep their hearts turned to you, the giver of all good things, and bring a fire of commitment to the world to end human trafficking. We give thanks for Women of the ELCA and its participants who work to bring issues of human trafficking before others. Continue to open pathways for freedom and restoration for all who are forced into sex trafficking. Keep the dignity of others before us so we can see your image in our neighbors next door and across the world. Amen.
Thursday, January 18
God of reconciliation, help our congregations to be beacons of hope. In their worship, prayers, and gathering may their hearts be tuned to the challenges of their neighbors. Help communities to open their doors and hearts to those who would never enter the church building. May our places of worship be wellsprings of information, voices for justice, and safe harbors to land. We desire children to be safe, known and loved, but so many have lost their childhoods and their hope for the future. We turn to you, the God who always sides with justice and mercy, and ask that the gathered body of Christ lift up, remember, and advocate for people who are trafficked. Amen.
Friday, January 19
God who came to this earth as a baby, you know what it’s like to be loved by a mother, cared for by a father, and welcomed into a community of faith. Jesus, a baby born in a manger, had his cries calmed and his hunger satisfied. Everyone is someone’s child and our hearts ache for those who have been ripped apart from their families. Hold close to those who are trafficked, soothe their fears, instill hope. When they wonder if anyone cares for them, hear their prayers. When they cry out in pain, hear their prayers. When they are forced to leave the only life they know, hear their prayers. Cradle them in your loving embrace as only a gentle parent can do and bring them home in safety and peace. Amen.
Saturday, January 20
Gracious God, help us to name sin where we see it — human trafficking, slavery, and murder. In our modern world it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that take place behind closed doors and in dark alleyways. But we also know that people are taken for human trafficking during large events and on our city streets. No one is immune, yet the root causes of trafficking can be found in poverty, racism, and sexism. Help us to confess the ways we’ve failed to care for our neighbors in all the things we’ve left undone. For all the ways we’ve let our comfort keep us from engaging with the needs of others. We pray in Jesus’ name, the One who is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, our redeemer and strength. Amen.
These prayers were written by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller. She is a writer, pastor, wife, mother of two, and the co-author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.