“Praying is the most important thing you do in a day. Whatever you do each day, begin everything with prayer. Prayer is the shortest way, not the longest! By sacrificing yourself and applying yourself to praying as a warrior, God will open the hearts of people and break through their thinking.” – North Korean pastor
For the Christians of North Korea who face real persecution every hour of the day from the oppressive Communist regime prayer must be a powerful source of comfort and hope. If they are caught praying or studying their Bible they can see their whole family thrown into prison as well as themselves. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to become a Christian and absolute faith in the saving power of Jesus to remain one.
Here in North America we have no such fears of imprisonment for our faith and that could be one reason the church is so anemic and self-centered. It is hard to believe that the millions of Christians residing in the Western nations can be so indifferent to the pain of their fellow believers around the world. Our self-absorbed governments seem to only care about how world events might interact with their poll numbers and popularity. Whatever happened to a Politician standing up for what is morally and ethically right? How is it possible that a woman who is married to an American citizen could be facing a beating and then beheading in the Sudan because of her Christian faith, and the world does or says nothing?
In Iraq ISISL terrorists are poised to invade Bagdad and instill a reign of terror that will leave thousands of Christians either dead or homeless. Do we care? If our response to the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood, the beheadings of priests in Syria, the overflowing prisons of Iran and the enslavement of 300 young girls in Nigeria is any indication, as a nation, we don’t.
But God has called on us to pray because prayer changes things. While our political leaders dilly dally around and issue useless statements that only fool themselves we need to be on our knees in prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world. Read the words of the Korean pastor again, “By sacrificing yourself and applying yourself to praying as a warrior, God will open the hearts of people and break through their thinking.”
There’s the crux of the problem. To develop a serious prayer life on behalf of others we are going to have to sacrifice, and sacrifice is something the North American Christian community doesn’t like to hear. We are willing to throw a few coins into the collection plate, volunteer to help at church socials and attend church when the weather’s bad but don’t ask us to truly sacrifice.
We are also not good at applying ourselves or thinking of ourselves in terms of warriors fighting the good fight. We rather see ourselves as fans (enthusiastic admirers) of God rather than fully committed followers of God.
Also, let’s be honest many of us have a problem with prayer. We don’t understand how it works. Does God change His mind when we pray? How do we know if God hears us when we don’t get immediate feedback? What do we do when we’ve prayed for the same thing for two years and yet nothing has changed? I don’t have to list all the doubts and confusion over prayer here in this blog because most of you know all too well what I’m talking about.
And yet in the Bible, which is our guide for our spiritual journey with God, we are admonished over and over to pray and trust that God hears and answers those prayers. This is where faith comes in. When I pray for the church in North Korea I have no idea of how those prayers affect the prisoner being tortured in the deepest darkest hole of a cell in that nation. I pray because I believe what the North Korean pastor says, “God will open the hearts of people and break through their thinking.”
I don’t know how that works. I don’t know how God will break through the thinking of the sadistic prison guards or self-centered leaders of that deplorable nation, but I know He will. I know that prayer makes a difference because over and over God tells us in the Bible that it does.
Isn’t it time that we who enjoy the benefits and blessings of living in a free nation find the time, the willpower and the desire to talk to God about our fellow Christians who are suffering for the name of Jesus? Maybe we should find the time to pray and set aside our doubts and intellectual objections to prayer and pray. Maybe it’s time we stopped being fans of Jesus and became followers, trusting in Him even though we are not always sure of the way that He leads.
When I pastored we encouraged the entire church to become members of the nine-o’clock club. Every evening regardless of what we were doing we asked the church family to stop and pray. What would happen if just the readers of this blog would join with Ruth and me in praying each evening at nine for the persecuted Christians around the world? What would happen if all our prayers would mingle together to the throne of God presenting our intercessory prayers on behalf of the broken and frightened?
The other day my friend Bob wrote me regarding something I wrote on Facebook about Mariam, the woman held in prison in the Sudan, and reminded me of the nine-o’clock club and ended his email by saying, “maybe it’s time we started again?” I would like to encourage each of you starting tonight to take a few minutes out of your schedule to remember the imprisoned Christians around the world. Especially keep the people of Iraq, and the persecuted church in Syria in your prayers.
I often wonder what can we do here in North America to help? Well this is one way that we can show solidarity and support for those who face hardship for their beliefs. And not only are we interceding for others but we are growing stronger and closer to God as we pray. Be courageous, be strong, no regrets and no retreat.