School is out, ampoule so I have a little more time to walk in the evenings near a park by my house and pray. I must admit that at different times during the school year my prayers got a bit rushed at times causing me to forget who I was praying to; the One who loves me most, sale the Lord. As I was praying the other night for some of my friends, ask family, and school colleagues, I started to pray for the men and women who are serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t really know any of them, but I felt compelled to pray for them and their families who anxiously await their return. As I concluded my prayer, I felt good about praying for them, but wondered if my prayers really made any difference? As I arrived home after my prayer walk I started reading from a book on prayer I had been sifting through for months. It is a book written by Phillip Yancy, one of my favorite writers, called Prayer, Does It Really Work. After reading a few of his stories on prayer, I was convinced that the prayers I prayed for these men and women in harms way could help, and I have not stopped praying for them since. No matter what you feel about the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, I hope you never stop praying for these men and women who are serving and sacrificing on our behalf. I have prayed every night since, and will continue to do so until they are safely home again. I leave you with two true stories where prayer made a difference in an impossible situation, as recorded on pages 118-120 in Yancy’s book on prayer.
Scenes of Uprising
Our own time has witnessed uprisings led by prayer. In the 1980’s a pastor named Laszlo Tokes took over a small Reformed church to minister to his fellow Hungarians, an oppressed minority living inside the borders of Romania. His predecessor had openly supported the communist Romanian government, even to the extent of wearing a red star on his clerical robes. In contrast, Tokes spoke out against injustice and protested government actions. Soon the sanctuary began filling each Sunday, bringing together worshipers and dissidents of both Romanian and Hungarian decent. Membership grew from forty persons to five thousand.
The courageous new pastor attracted the attention of special agents as well. They threatened Tokes many times with violence, and one evening the police were dispatched to evict him. Word spread quickly and hundreds of Christians–Baptist, Orthodox, Reformed, and Catholic alike–poured out of their homes to surround Tokes’s house as a wall of protection. They stood through day and night, singing hymns and holding candles.
A few days later, police broke through the protestors to seize Tokes. Rather than dispersing and filing home, the protestors decided to march downtown to the police station. As the procession moved noisily through the streets, more and more people joined in. Eventually the crowd in the town square swelled to 200,000, nearly the entire population of that area. The Romanian army sent in troops, who in one bloody incident opened fire on the crowd, killing a hundred and wounding many more. Still the people held their ground, refusing to disperse.
A local pastor stood to address the protestors in an attempt to calm the rising anger and prevent a full-scale riot. He began with three words, “Let us pray.” In one spontaneous motion that giant mass of farmers, teachers, students, doctors, and ordinary working people fell to their knees and recited the Lord’s Prayer–a corporate act of civil disobedience. Within days the protest spread to the capital city of Bucharest, and a short time later the government that had ruled Romania with an iron fist toppled to the ground.
Free At Last
“Those of us who lived under Communism know well the power of prayer. My father worked on Soviet rockets in Siberia, and I grew up under the propaganda of atheism and Communism. We were constantly told that our system was better than the West, even though we all knew the opposite. No on could even imagine that Communism would someday fall and that the Soviet Union would break up. Even today, few give credit to what I believe was the real force: the power of prayer. All over Eastern Europe, the church organized peace marches with “people power” marching in the streets and holding candles
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. No one fought a war, and very few shots were fired, yet the mighty Soviet empire came crashing down. By that time, my family had settled in the Ukraine, and since then we have seen our own Orange Revolution bring down a corrupt government. That revolution, in 2004, spread mainly through text messages on cell phones. Since then, we Christians have organized a national prayer time at ten o’clock every night, to pray for our country. We have organized in groups of three, “triplets,” to teach one another to pray. You see, most of us have only known the long, formal, boring prayers we hear in churches. We are just now discovering the privilege of talking to God as to a friend. I have heard incredible stories of faith from Ukraine and from its neighbors. One friend of mine from Moldova used to tell his atheist parents that he was heading to the outdoor bathroom, then jump over the fence and pray with his neighbor. Sometimes Christians got baptized in frozen lakes, after chopping through the ice. Foreign visitors smuggled in books and Bibles, which we distributed according to an elaborate secret system. Many, many pastors spent time in prison for their work with the church. Now that we are free, we are in danger of growing complacent, or not treasuring the freedom to worship. In fact, Christians in parts of the former Soviet Union have actually voted for Communism to return to power because the church was so much more pure in those days. It seems we handle persecution better than prosperity. I, for one, pray we never have to return to those days. I pray that we will learn to praise God for what we have, rather than have to plead for it.
Take one evening this week with your family and pray for the men and women serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pray for their families too, who anxiously await their return every day. Every time you see one of our soldiers on the news, or in a newspaper, stop and pray for them (Matthew 7:7-11; I Thessalonians 5:17). Teach your children to do likewise, let them see that you believe prayer, continuous prayer, can make a difference. Perhaps through all of our prayers these men and women will come home soon; so let’s pray them home!
Word of God
Matthew 7:7-11 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
I Thessalonians 5:17 “…Pray without ceasing…”