By Elizabeth Kendal
TO OPEN: an affirmation.
(Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)
Leader: I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
Congregation: My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
Leader: Let's pray . . .
We know that Christ is building his Church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). We see the evidence of this all around us, as people are coming to Christ from every tribe, language, people and nation. We praise you for your redeeming love, transforming power and gracious mercy.
Please dear Father, help us fulfil the will for Christ and become ONE Church in spirit (John 17:20-23). Transform our selfish hearts into hearts that love one another as you love us. May the Holy Spirit do a work in us so that we might see as you see and love as you love, even though it may hurt and be costly. Inject into our hearts a deep compassion for our brothers and sisters -- a love that will compel us to intercede for them and bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Dear Father, we are faced with so many horrific situations that are completely beyond our ability to address: whole regions and peoples that are oppressed, nations tearing apart in violent conflict, genocides, mass cruelty, gross injustice . . . We confess that many of these terrible situations persist because we have been unfaithful in witness, righteousness and prayer; because we have been uninterested in suffering and injustice; because we have sat back, washed our hands and let the devil get a foothold. We repent of our sin, ask for your forgiveness and seek your mercy for those who suffer.
We pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer under Islamic oppression and jihad; for those who live under Communist rule and cruel totalitarian regimes; for those suffering persecution on account of militant religious nationalism; and for those who suffer humiliation, ridicule, scorn and crippling discrimination simply because they love and follow Jesus Christ and will not compromise for the sake of personal security or financial gain.
We pray for those who are in prison and in concentration or forced labour camps on account of the name of Jesus (John 15:21). We pray for those who go hungry, for those who grieve and for those who have been cast from their homes and lands simply on account of the name of Jesus.
We pray for those who are displaced and imperilled on account of war. We beseech you Father: rise up in defence of your betrayed, abandoned and threatened people (Isaiah 59:15b-19), so that their enemies might 'be scattered' (Psalm 68:1) and 'put to shame and confusion' and 'turned back and brought to dishonour' (Psalm 70:2). Provide for your suffering people O LORD, just as you did when you provided manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and water from the rock (Exodus 17); just as you did when you instructed the ravens to feed Elijah and resupplied the widow each night (1 Kings 17). We know you rule heaven and earth. We know that with you, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).
Father we ask that your Holy Spirit, who is present within each believer, will comfort, encourage, revive and counsel them. May they be assured in the depths of their hearts that nothing can separate them from your love (Romans 8:35-39). Draw them into prayer and then answer their prayers that their faith might be fanned into flame. May the devil have no victory over them.
Father we pray for those who persecute the Church. We know that they do this because they do not know you (John 16:3). May the Holy Spirit fill us with love them so that we might pray for them and be courageous in our witness to them. We pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, persecutors will come under conviction of sin. We pray for many of those miracles of transformation whereby persecutors are turned into preachers (Galatians 1:23). We pray that you will establish leaders in the nations who will be committed to justice, righteousness, peace and liberty so that Christians may live in peace and security and so the gospel may be preached freely to lost and dying souls (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Finally we ask that your Holy Spirit will help us to prevail in prayer: not giving up, not being distracted, not fooled by the tricks of the devil, but compelled by love into prevailing prayer with hearts full of assurance and faith (Hebrews 10:19-23). For we know that we are ultimately wrestling not with men/women, or governments, or systems -- but we are fighting against principalities and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-18). We know we cannot do this on our own -- and so we come before you now to humbly seek your direction and your intervention. We do not ask these things because we deserve your help, but because you are merciful (Daniel 9:18b).
So now O LORD our God, intervene on behalf of your besieged, suffering and threatened people -- your persecuted Church -- that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD (Isaiah 37:20).