The Heart of Prayer

Early on New Year’s Day a car bomb exploded outside a church in Alexandria, Egypt, killing 21 worshipers and seriously injuring dozens more. The next day was Sunday, and Christians throughout America took their places in church pews to greet the New Year. But something was missing, and the deficiency reveals a malady that has infected congregations far too long to go unnoticed.

During this particular service in an evangelical church of significant size, the pattern of worship rightly followed the usual course. When requests for prayer were announced, the list was basically dedicated to intercession for church members or their families afflicted with physical ailments or related temporal and economic situations. Why was no mention made of, or prayer offered for, those who suffered from the terrible, tragic attack in Egypt only hours earlier? Granted, the bomb did not go off in America; but why should that make a difference?These were Christians marked for death by the same hate-filled radicals who wish us all dead. The only difference was distance and opportunity.

When these horrific and all-too-often massacres occur, wouldn’t it be appropriate for church leaders to address the situation with worshipers and pause to pray for survivors and fellow believers in the affected country? After all, there is no biblical admonition to condone doing otherwise. Along with other scriptural calls to intercede for fellow believers, the very reports on persecution that we publish in this magazine lift up the standard bearer, Hebrews 13:3: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

Jesus said that “treasure” and “heart” are interrelated. The subject in context was riches, but the principle is universal. If you treasure your Christian brothers, wherever they happen to be, you manifest an extremely God-pleasing condition of the heart. And so it should be.

This issue of Israel My Glory is dedicated to prayer. Why pray, how to pray, when to pray. It is, therefore, profoundly important that we include our persecuted brethren in our public and private practices of prayer. Unfortunately, at this juncture, they seem to have been shoved down the deep chasm of Western neglect.

Can it be that we have become so seduced by the spirit of contemporary “feel-goodism” that the disturbing news of suffering and tragedy is an unwelcome downer at our uplift-seeking sessions? If so, it is a foreboding preamble for the future because the facts warn us that the tide of jihadist fanaticism and hard-line, secularist God-hating is rapidly coming our way. The issue is whether we can be prepared as a people to face all aspects of the future with biblical discernment and a balanced, practical sense of spiritual maturity.

Filling the void of intercessory union with brethren outside our immediate vicinity, culture, or social circle can bring the balance and perspective demanded by living in the last days. This subject is not a matter of bowing to morbid, debilitating pessimism. It is, in a positive way, a road to reality. Our brothers need us. They need our prayers, our encouragement, our assistance, our support, and our voices where speaking up on their behalf can make a difference.

Of major importance in today’s world is the primacy of prayer that is based on accurate information transmitted through trustworthy sources and compassionately disseminated by our leaders to those of us in the pews. Together, through prayer, we can and must make a difference.

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