There is great conflict in the world, great affliction and suffering, some of which we cannot comprehend. The news is filled with reports of hate, jealousy, murder, wars and betrayal. There is a battle for land, a battle for power and a battle in the spiritual realms. What do we do in this time? How do we fight against all these injustices? How do we proclaim the Name of Jesus in these situations? How do we pray?
I remember thinking about this last year when the tension between Israel and Gaza was strong, and the Israeli army recruited its youths. I asked the Lord, “How shall I pray? Whom shall you help, and how? Surely there are those who know you in both Israel and Gaza, and surely there are those you wish to minister to on both sides, even in this time. Should there be peace, or war, divide or spoil? What is Your divine will, God?” The Lord answered me simply then, “Pray that Israel would know her God.” And also, “Pray for my people in Gaza.” It reminds me of God’s love for the nations, and God’s promise for Israel. His heart for Israel and for the nations of the world has never changed.
[Acts 13:47] – “For so the Lord has commanded us; ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
To the nations in the middle East:
[Isaiah 19:24-25] – “In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria – a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying ‘Blessed is Egypt My People, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”
Note: Assyria is spread amongst parts of modern day Iraq, Syria and Turkey
As I think about the persecution in the Middle East, I think of Matthew 10:21-22 –
“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
There are some reports of persecution that I cannot even finish reading because of the atrocities they describe. I don’t think I fully comprehend the history and intent of ISIS, Hamas and the conflict of the Middle East, but with the understanding I have, I come to God. Here in our privileged Western society, I remember my brothers and sisters who are suffering, marked as God’s beloved and singled out for persecution. We are the family of Christ, and while we might be separated by oceans, the same Spirit of God is within us all, and we have a God who hears.
How shall we pray? With the affluence, and opportunities available in the Western world, how do we help our brethren? Luke 21:34-36 gives good account:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with the carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
From this passage, I think there are a few things to consider:
- Keep watch that we are not weighed down by the temporary things of this world
- Keep watch for the coming Day of the Lord, and know the signs
- Prepare through intimacy with Christ to stand firm in the day of trouble
Practically, this translates to:
- Keep our eyes on Christ
- Through regular prayer, time in the word, and fasting, we keep drawing near to God, and searching out his heart so that we can walk in step with the spirit and know His desires and His plan
- This also includes keeping a focus on God in our work, and relationships. Whether we study, or work, participate in overseas missions, or enjoy some leisure time, we should give thanks to God for every opportunity, and use it for God’s glory
- Be aware of what is happening in the world
- Research, read the news and dare to see the battle that rages on the earth
- Pray for God’s will be to done, and for His people to endure all things for His Name’s sake
- Pray and intercede, declare God’s victory, and God’s truth. One Psalm I have prayed very often is Psalm 68 – (see verses 1-8 below)
- If there is opportunity to help in finance or possession, then help as each one is able
- Pray for strengthening in our inner being
- Just as we pray that our physically persecuted brethren will stay strong, we remember that as the day of the Lord approaches, we can expect to face stronger persecution
- The Western church also needs to be strengthened to endure in the time of testing
[Psalm 68:1-8] – “Let God arise,
Let His enemies be scattered;
Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.
As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad;
Let them rejoice before God;
Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly,
Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name YAH,
And rejoice before Him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the lonely in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”
Above all, we declare the enduring love of God that conquers all things. How can we endure, and how can our brethren endure through all the hardship and tribulation faced? It is by the love of Christ!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – [Romans 8:35-39]