‘Three minutes in Parliament that God used beyond expectations’
Many Christians in South Africa and beyond were inspired when Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng called for three minutes of meditation or prayer for the nation in parliament last week and then knelt down to pray.
But some South Africans took to social media to express their disapproval of Mogoeng’s prayer before swearing in members of the sixth democratically-elected Parliament — and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s approval of his “unprecedented” prayer — which they saw as inappropriate in a secular state.
In an interview yesterday, the Chief Justice said he did what he did in obedience to God’s direction to him, that he acted strictly according to the parliamentary order of procedure for the day laid down to accommodate people of all faiths and people of no faith, and that he had not prayed for some people to be favoured above others — but for peace, national unity and prosperity, and an end to corruption — “all the good things that South Africa needs”.
“Now, how somebody gets to criticise that, I don’t understand,” he said.
Before getting back to the interesting story of how the Chief Justice’s three-minute call to prayer or meditation came about, and what followed, let me report on his answer to my asking him what practical response he would like to see from South African believers who were inspired by his example in parliament on Wednesday last week.
Stop being timid
“I say that South Africans must stop being timid when the opportunity arises for them to enjoy or exercise their constitutional right to pray,” he responded.
He said they should feel absolutely free to initiate prayer at their workplace or wherever they were, with fellow believers or with people who were willing to be in the company of praying Christians.
“I’m here at the Constitutional Court and nothing stops me from saying to a number of people who happen to be Christians, let’s come together at lunch hour and pray together. There is no law against that; on the contrary, there is law in support of that practice.
“We must stop feeling guilty for being Christians. We must stop feeling like we are committing a criminal act when we declare who we are and when we practice our faith. And that, by the way, applies to everybody. Everybody has a constitutional right to live out who they are and what they believe in.
“There has been a trend to try and intimidate Christians out of Christianity. There’s a barrage of attacks against Christians when they seek to exercise their right to live out their faith. I think Christians must rise up against this intimidation, against this attack, and assert their right to exercise Christianity as their faith,” he said.
So, returning to the Chief Justice’s call for three minutes of prayer, I asked him how it came about.
He said that while he was meditating at home on Monday, last week, he had a strong impression in his spirit about the significance of silent prayer and meditation. As he sought the Lord for further revelation, God told him that adults should never embark on meaningless exercises and that the meditation or prayer time should be clearly defined. He should tell people what they would meditate or pray about, and for how long.
God also showed him that the prescribed meditation or prayer slot was not a time to impose his faith on others but an opportunity for all to focus on major challenges currently facing the nation.
And finally, he said the Lord specifically gave him the duration of the meditation/prayer slot: three minutes, with a minute to honour each personality in the Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Introducing the mediation/prayer time in Parliament last week, Mogoeng stressed that it was a meaningful exercise and not a ritual, and he said members should stand, sit or adopt any other position during the three minutes.
Desperate for solutions
Asked about his decision to kneel in prayer, he said: “You know, I am so desperate for solutions for South Africa, and Africa and the world, and the best way I know to appeal to the Lord and demonstrate my humility towards him is either to kneel or to lie prostrate.
“What came to mind was to kneel down and to really appeal to the Lord to intervene — to unite us as the people of South Africa, to help us reconcile with one another as black and white people because there are elements of division there, to open up our eyes to the reality that we can all prosper if only we could be united as we could be as the broader South African family.”
I asked the Chief Justice how he felt about President Ramaphosa’s positive response to his going down on his knees and praying.
“I really was humbled, because I knew that whenever a public official like me openly declares their Christianity or prays, some people respond to prayer as if it is a terrible thing to do. Some people respond to prayer worse than they do to incidents of murder and rape and corruption.
“So, it was quite encouraging that the number one citizen of the country spent quality time expressing appreciation for prayer, and he even told members of parliament — although his remarks were addressed to Honourable Groenewald — that he really wished the prayer was broadcast.
“I was humbled. I really appreciate divine intervention for causing the head of state to express that appreciation. You can just imagine what would have become of that moment of prayer had the president poured cold water on it or treated it as if it was never said.”
Mogoeng added that he was also deeply humbled by the impact that God has caused through his simple obedience to His instructions on how to administer the meditation/prayer time.
“I had messages from men of God from as far as the United States of America — at least three — who had access to the clips and some articles that were written about it and they sent me words of encouragement.
“I had a message, also, from the former vice president of Zambia. He said, you know, tears welled down his face when he saw what the Lord did through me in Parliament. So it looks like God has really used this three-minute incident in a way that none of us could ever have imagined when he instructed me to do it.”
Book of the Law
Questioned about his gift of a Bible to Ramaphosa at his presidential inauguration at Loftus Versfeld stadium last Saturday, he said before Joshua assumed his governmental duties, God gave him guidelines for success — Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful — Joshuah 1:8
“You can never oppress anybody, you can never be unjust to anybody, you can never corrupt the system, if you follow the principles in the Bible as instructed by God,” he said.
Mogoeng said he was blessed to hear that Ramaphosa had tweeted in appreciation of the Bible gift.
One of the beauties of our nation is the ability to embrace our diverse society, its many faiths and religions. The gift you have given me is most treasured. pic.twitter.com/rRqCoo1Aon
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) May 26, 2019
I asked Mogoeng what he felt about expectations being expressed in some Christian circles, that despite the absence of dramatic visible changes after the elections, the nation was entering a prophesied time in which the Church would rise and corrupt leaders would be removed.
He said: “I think people must know that a thousand years is equal to one day in the eyes of God. Christians must know that God can give birth to a new nation at once, people must never forget that all creation — the heavens, the earth, the seas and all that is in them, were created in six days. So, there is nothing too hard for God.
“And therefore, we must stop trying to answer our own prayer. We must trust God at all times and depend only on Him and not on our intellect, not on our logic. We must depend absolutely on God and hold onto His promises.
“So once God has released a prophetic word, our responsibility is to hold onto it and pray it into manifestation relentlessly. Remember the story in the book of Luke of that widow, who had to deal with an evil judge. It is an example to all of us, that you need to keep on insisting on this which the Lord says He wants to do until it manifests.
“Pray, fast, link up with other brethren so that the will of God can find practical expression in our lives. So, I am confident that God is about to do what He has always wanted to do. Christians must key into the revival that has permeated South Africa and Africa and never give up, no matter the opposition, no matter the attacks.”