In my recent conversations with students for joining a prayer group for persecuted Christians, I see their willingness for even bigger and 'practical' steps such as protesting, demonstrating etc. Praying is not always a very appealing idea.
Can prayer really help in dealing with sad realities of our world today?
Prayer for deliverance is definitely the first, if not the only step, to deal with difficulties. Many places in scripture we see that Christ had been praying, including the time in Gethsemane before his crucifixion. But does it really help today?
Well, the more difficult the journey, the more powerful our prayers can become. It is our way of surrendering in our helplessness, and asking God to show His glory in our weakness, who then guides us and 'practically' leads us out of it. It is a unique way through which God glorifies His name in His people, by making a way in the most terrifying situations.
Among others, a recent evidence can be found in the story of Fr. Jacques who miraculously fled ISIS' captivity.
Fr. Jacques Mourad was serving as a prior of the Syriac Catholic Mar Elian monastery, when he was kidnapped by terrorists on 21st May 2015. Even in the most petrified conditions, Fr. Jacques still resorted to prayer in hope of deliverance. He had spent a prayerful time in hope, while he was held captive by ISIS for five months in Syria. He later described his captivity as a 'spiritual retreat' for him. According to him, it was an important and delightful time for his spiritual development and for making scripture a part of his 'practical' life.
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Fr. Jacques fled ISIS in October 2015 by disguising himself and fleeing with the help of a Muslim man. It was indeed God's answer to the prayers of many around the world that he was released and is serving His people in Syria.
However, it is equally important to pray for alleviation from that pain. During Fr. Jacques' captivity, he resisted demands to convert to Islam even when a knife was held against his neck or when he was beaten with a plastic hose. The priest says that it was only through prayer for his captors that hatred never rooted in him.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Lastly, while writing this blog today, I also remember a prayer time in my college back in Pakistan in 2007. It was Ramadan season where attending Friday sermon was mandatory, irrespective of your faith. As a solitary Christian, I walked into that room full of Muslim staff and students. The sermon began with the importance of fasting, followed by few readings in Arabic – a language which I couldn't understand. However, there was a closing prayer in Urdu, the response to which was ‘Amen’. The speaker started prayers for staff, students and our country etc. What I was shocked to hear was a prayer for us, the Christians and the West.
It said:'May Allah ruin all the Christians of the world', to which everyone responded 'Amen'
'May Allah devastate the West', again the response was 'Amen'.
I looked at my friends and the gathering in shock, trying to believe what my ears just heard!
Referring back to Fr. Jacques' words, it is indeed through prayer that hatred will not root in us.
It is our time to live up our Christian faith 'practically' in prayer; praying for our faithful being persecuted and for the ones persecuting them. And God will lead us, the young and the prayerful, into practical ways of making a difference within our spans.
So let's be practical! Let's pray together!
I am the Holy Name representative for Aid to the Church in Need.