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Faith Daily | 30 July 2022

PRAYER of the DAY - APBA p565

O God, the protector of all that trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us your mercy,

that, with you as our ruler and guide,

we may so pass through things temporal

that we finally lose not the things eternal.

Grant this, O heavenly Father,

for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord.


GOSPEL for the Day: Luke 4: 16-21 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, Social Reformer

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’


In the Anglican calendar, today we remember and give thanks for the life of William Wilberforce, 1759 to 1833, parliamentarian and social reformer. Most people know him as the man who fought to end slavery in the British Empire, but he was also a major mover in improving the appalling social conditions of the working poor in Britain at the time. Charles Dickens portrayed these conditions vividly in novels like “Oliver Twist” and “A Christmas Carol”, and Wilberforce, together with a group of Evangelical Christians known as “the Clapham Set”, did much to get reforming laws through parliament. Read “William Wilberforce” by the British MP William Hague for an excellent (if long!) account.

Wilberforce was born to a rich trading family in Hull, then the 2nd richest port on the east coast of Britain, trading to the North Sea and Baltic countries. He was converted to evangelical Christianity as a boy, but remained in the Church of England all his life. At University in Cambridge, he made a life-long friend of William Pitt, Prime Minister from 1783, and entered parliament in 1780 as member for Hull, and later as one of two MPs for Yorkshire. At the time, Yorkshire was a rich powerful county, one of the few represented in parliament by independents, elected by an electorate of several hundred and not owing their position to the local aristocracy. This gave Wilberforce the independence he needed to back unpopular causes, and, despite his friendship with Pitt, he always refused to sit with the government or take a ministry.

His Christian faith was the mainspring of his life: friends urged him to be ordained but he believed God was calling him to be the voice of the oppressed in “the corridors of power”. He was popular, loved parties, and despite being small and unprepossessing, was a very effective speaker with a powerful voice. He had many friends within the aristocratic circles that governed Britain, and without his support, it is doubtful if many of the reform measures could have been passed. These were the years when the British settlement in Australia was being established, and Australia, as well as the UK, owes much to Wilberforce and his conviction that God’s work is done through Christians in parliaments and authorities, as well as in our private lives.


Lord God, we remember with thanks the life and work of your servant William Wilberforce. We thank you for his courage, his dedication to the poor and powerless, and his ability to make and keep friends among the powerful. Above all, we thank you for his example of faith in action to change this world for the better. In the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, who brings good news to the poor and powerless. Amen

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