On Fridays, I receive an email from the Voice of the Martyrs (http://www.persecution.com/). These prayer updates tell the story of persecuted Christians in the world today. The email is a helpful reminder to me that (1) my brothers and sisters in Christ have been killed for the name of Jesus. It does not happen where I live, in the United States, but in many parts of the world it does. Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and many other places, Christians are displaced or forced to suffer because of their loyalty to Jesus.
The updates call to my heart these brothers and sisters in Christ. The updates also call me back to prayer. I am terrible about routines and habits. I wake up at different times each day. I go to bed at different times. Doing things by habit typically drive me to boredom. So, the habit or routine of daily prayer is something at which I often fail. The email from VOM calls me back to prayer.
This past week, the call came in a way both dramatic and quiet. First, there was the VOM prayer update about 100 Christians who died when a suicide bomber infiltrated their church service in Pakistan. Then came the post from my good friend Randy, chronicling deaths of Christians worldwide; deaths that have not moved the hearts of American Christians as a group to any kind of action (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/27/a-global-slaughter-of-christians-but-america-s-churches-stay-silent.html).
I realized on Friday, I needed to sit with this event in Pakistan longer than my usual times of prayer. I also realize I had in recent weeks neglected my prayers altogether. Thus, I was called out of my slumber to pray for Pakistan.
Literally, I was called out of my slumber.
I had just finished reading Call of the Wild (Jack London). In it, the dog, Buck, feels deep within himself a memory. Beyond his own personal experiences, he remembers the call of his ancestors, not domesticated dogs, but fierce, wild hunters that dominate the wilderness of Alaska. It is a creeping memory that comes slowly but builds until finally he yields, shedding domestication and becoming leader of a pack of wolves.
What does this have to do with prayer or Pakistan or me?
I feel God has roused me. And this is the greatness of God. Nothing that happened in Pakistan has a thing to do with me. It is an unspeakable tragedy where the deaths far outnumber similar senseless acts in our own country. Take the Virginia Tech shootings and the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Newtown, CT school shootings and add up all the deaths and the number is less than those who died in Pakistan. Yet, it gets minimal coverage in our news, as if those fatalities matter less because they are not us. But they are “us” if instead of Americans we think of “we/us” as the body of Christ.
The greatness of God is that God was present in Pakistan and at Virginia Tech and those other places. God was there with the victims. This doesn’t lessen the sorrow or horror of it. But, God carries us through. And 1000’s of miles away, God taps the shoulder of a pastor who has not prayed enough lately and says, ‘Get involved here.’ ‘How do I do that, Lord?’ ‘You know how.’
The Pakistan church attack; Randy’s email; Buck in Call of the Wild; and finally, these past two mornings, God has awakened me before 4AM. I will be tired today. Yesterday, the crash came just as the worship service started. I had to go through it dependent upon God for energy. God provided. There will be a crash today and God will walk me through that.
I am not over spiritualizing here. I know last night I woke up with a coughing attack at 3:15AM. I don’t know why I could not fall back asleep. This morning my daughter came in at 3:30AM. I don’t know why I could not fall back asleep. She was sound asleep by 3:40AM and has been since (it is now 5:10). But I am piecing it all together and I know God is drawing me to Himself. No, God did not kill 100 Christians in Pakistan to get Rob to prayer more. But, God moves in all things.
I looked at the scripture that accompanied the email from VOM – Isaiah 64:1-3. This morning, I prayed that scripture as lectio divina. I focused on the phrase “the mountains shook at your presence.” I thought about Buck’s primal call the wild wolf pack. It occurred to me that women and men have a holy call to prayer. This came in the quiet dark, the house asleep, children silent and still in their beds. In the dim light, in the stillness, I felt called to prayer, something deep within me. I turned over and over in my mind the phrase “the mountains shook.”
I pray that in Syria and Egypt and Pakistan and Iran and Iraq and North Korea and Russia the world will shake. It won’t happen in the United States. Life is too easy here. There is too much available to us here. We have too much to realize how God dependent we really are. Too many times, in my sleepless nights, I went on espn.com or I played Facebook games instead of realizing my frustrated exhaustion was a call to prayer. No, this night, I prayed God would shake the mountains among a hurting people, persecuted Christians. I pray that noise of their outcry, their holy mourning, their furious grief, their vice-grip faith, would reach up. And the power of God would “rend the heavens” reaching down. And the wealthy of the world would be shocked at the movement of God among them.
I thought about Isaiah and Isaiah’s words became my own. I raised them and continue to raise them.
Oh, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence—
2 As fire burns brushwood,
As fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look,
You came down,
The mountains shook at Your presence.
May my heart for Christians, Pakistani and Afghan and Korean and Syrian, break. May it break and broken, may I reach to God for healing (not for me, but for a broken world). May I remain broken even as I stand looking to the time where death and crying and pain are no more (Revelation 21:4). May both (brokenness and life) be mine and be me as I am in Christ. In Pakistan, may the heavens rend and the church rise.