A Prayer for Our Family Facing ISIS
“And [Stephen] said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him.”
– Acts 7:56-58
How are Western Christians, who are thus far insulated from martyrdom, to deal with the news coming out of the ISIS-ravaged Middle East?
I am sitting in a warm office, I just ate breakfast, my wife and I have a home in a small town, and whatever “concerns” we have in our life are of an unquestionably “1st World” nature (creating a faithful budget, planning weekly meals, cultivating relationships, pursuing “dreams” we believe God has given us, trying to maintain our health, etc.)….and yet there are brothers and sisters in Christ – members of my own body (Romans 12:5) – who are, even as I type, awaiting a blade to be dragged across their neck until they die.
How am I – and those in my position – to respond? I would contend that one critical response is prayer.
This is not a “Sunday School” answer. In fact, if you felt that way upon reading the line above, that may be evidence that your view of prayer is too small. Prayer is the supernatural, blood-bought, God-ordained means of speaking directly to the Sustainer of Reality Himself….when the heart of a Christian pours itself out to the Lord in the name of Christ, God Almighty hears. And in the Bible we have the promise that if we pray according to the scripture-revealed will of God, He hears and answers (1 John 5:14). Those who pray faithfully will be stunned and humbled in eternity to see the monumental effects their prayers have wrought.
So – pray for our brothers and sisters facing the Satan-wielded blade of ISIS. And what can we pray? Let me quickly share with you a theme of prayer I believe would honor God and bless our persecuted family.
In the above passage from Acts, Stephen is about to be crushed to death by stones because of His witness to Christ. But notice something: as the danger of persecution draws nearer, His sense of nearness to the Lord also increases. When the crowd begins to fume with anger, Stephen sees the living Christ with His waking eyes, and in verse 59 – as the stones are falling – Stephen’s spirit reclines, as it were, into the arms of His Lord. As Stephen’s suffering became more intimate, so too did His experience of the nearness of Christ; when the mobs roared, Stephen saw Jesus; when the stones began to break his bones, he fell into His arms.
This has been my prayer for our family under the shadow of ISIS…that as persecution draws near, so too would the biblically informed, experientially known nearness of Jesus Christ. I pray that as their suffering (emotional, spiritual, physical) reaches heights it never has before, that so too their sense of nearness to Christ and peace in Him would increase.
And, if they are ordained to die a martyr’s death, may it be that the moment the gun touches the back of their head or the blade rests on their throat, may it be that in that moment the living Jesus Christ, their Lord, God, and Suffering-Yet-Victorious Savior, would make Himself known to them with a fear-drowning, joy-igniting, hope-sustaining clarity such that their final heart beats would be the sweetest they have ever known. And may their murders tremble with a stunned wonder and come to bow their knee to the God who enables His children to die with hope in their eyes and forgiveness on their lips. Only the grace of God can perform such a wonder, Oh that He would be merciful to do it!
Join me, friends, in praying for our family….and let us – so long as God sees fit to insulate us from persecution – let us daily place our entire being on the altar of His will and spend ourselves for His glory in whatever way He directs.