The Church around the world has recently come into clearer focus for American Christians as stories of persecution and violence directed at our brothers and sisters abroad have been in the news. I do not need to detail these stories for you here, but if you are curious a simple Google search will illustrate the problem. So what are we to do for those who share our faith and suffer for it? When in doubt, the answer is to pray. I can recall my mission pastor in Seminary saying the first act of mission is always prayer. And this is true. But prayer is not always the easiest spiritual practice to navigate. I have been reading selections from the Desert Fathers, the monks who fled civilization in the 4th-7th centuries and fled into solitary lives in the desert. These wise men and women have more insight into prayer than most of us will ever find, so as way of preparation for your task, I offer you some of their thoughts:
“How lovely is prayer, and how radiant are its works. Prayer is acceptable to God when it goes with good deeds, and it is heard when it rises out of a spirit of forgiveness. Prayer is always answered when it is pure and sincere. Prayer is powerful when it is suffused with God’s vigor.”-Aphrahat the Persian
“When you go out after prayer, keep your tongue under restraint, for it is well capable of dissipating, in a very short time, what you labored to gather together.”-John Klimakos
“If you are serioius about the life of prayer, take care to be very merciful, for in this way, ‘you shall receive a hundredfold reward’ and even greater things in the future age.”-John Klimakos
“Pray night and day. Pray when you are happy and pray when you are sad. Pray with fear and trembling, and with a watchful and vigilant mind, that your prayer might be acceptable to the Lord.”-Theodoros the Ascetic
“Before you pray, first forgive all those who have offended you, then pray. Only then will your prayer rise up into the presence of God. If you do not forgive, it will simply remain on earth.”-Aphrahat the Persian
I could go on and on, but as we consider the troubles in this world, particularly as they relate to the Church, it is clearly a season for regular and vigorous prayer. Give your prayer life some thought and attention; listen to the wisdom of those who came before, and then go to God and ask His presence with our brothers and sisters around the world.
Prayer: Holy God, we come before you this day and ask your presence with our brothers and sisters around the world; our family of faith needs your strength, courage and protection. Help us this day to be a people of prayer, keeping your will for this world at the fore of our minds, and rooting our lives in the truth of Jesus Christ. It’s in his name we pray, Amen.