At the start of this ‘new term’ and as we anticipate all that is in store for the months ahead; how good it is to stop for a moment, to think and to pray. How foolish for us to suppose ‘this is our church’ or ‘this is how I am going to go about things this year’ without recognising Christ is the sovereign head of his Church and we are called to be participants in what he is already doing in our world. That is why Kirk Session have designated Monday 6th-Saturday 11th Sept as a ‘Week of Prayer’ which will be on the theme ‘O Church of Christ arise’. Specific details will be highlighted a little later, but meanwhile, some have been asking ‘How might we pray for poor benighted Afghanistan right now’?
Let me share with you parts of an article from The Gospel Coalition, which I think you will find is really helpful.
Even with the restraining force of a U.S. military presence, Afghanistan was listed by Open Doors as a land where “persecution is only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.” Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. As Open Doors notes, they either have to flee the country or they will be killed. “How we survive daily only God knows,” says one secret Afghan believer. “He knows because he has been kind to dwell with us. But we are tired of all the death around us.”
As U.S and UK troops have now exited the country, followers of Christ in Afghanistan will be even more exposed to persecution. Girls and women will also suffer, as will those who helped Western forces for the past 20 years. We need to diligently pray for these vulnerable populations, and ask that God will provide for them in the suffering to come.
Christians in the West should pray for the spiritual provision of ministers and missionaries in the country.
We should also pray for those who are sick. As Open Doors points out, “Though underreported in international media, COVID-19 cases are spiking in the country and hospitals are limited in what they can offer. There is no certainty as to how the healthcare system will be able to sustain itself with the new Taliban government.” We must also pray that the fall of the state will not lead to more extremism and terrorism. “The Taliban’s swift advance can only embolden extremists,” says Paul Robinson of Release International.
But there is another group Jesus tells us we need to pray for—the Taliban.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy,’” Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43).
When Jesus gave the command to love and pray for our enemies he knew it would one day require praying for Islamic extremist groups, like the Taliban, who murder his bride. Praying for the Taliban is not something we would choose. But it is what Jesus has commanded of us.
Here are three specific ways we can pray for those who would murder our Afghan brothers and sisters:
Pray for the conversion of the Taliban.
There are two primary reasons we don’t pray for the conversion of Islamic extremists like the Taliban. The first reason is that we believe it’s absurd to think they’ll become followers of Christ. The second reason is that we fear they might actually convert.
The first reason is more common, since praying the extremists will convert seems like a useless plea. We recognize the theological truth that God can do for them what he did for us: provide the gift of grace that they might be saved (Eph. 2:8). But we look at the situation “realistically” and tell ourselves that the probability of their genuine conversion is so close to zero that it would be a waste of our time—both ours and God’s—to even bother to ask.
No doubt such conversions are unlikely and rare. Yet we should pray for their conversion anyway. If we truly love our enemy, how could we not at least petition God to change their hearts?
Another, less frequent, reason we don’t pray for their conversion is that we fear they may actually repent. Like Jonah in the land of Nineveh, we want our enemies to receive their just desserts, not mercy and forgiveness and complain, as when God spared the Ninevites, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2)
But it is precisely because he is a gracious and compassionate God that we ought to pray for the conversion of our enemies. How could we do anything less than ask God to show our enemies the same grace he showed us, when we were his enemies?
Pray the Taliban will be restrained from doing evil.
There is no dichotomy in praying for the good of our enemy and praying their evil actions will be restrained. It is for the good of the Taliban persecutors as well as to the Christians being persecuted that they be prevented from committing more evil.
Pray the Taliban will receive divine justice.
Just as we petition duly established governmental authorities to deliver earthly justice, we can petition our holy God to deliver divine justice.
In asking that divine justice be done, we should be careful to guard our motives. Praying for divine justice can be a way to circumvent our duty to love our enemy. While we must leave vengeance to God, we must not forget what is commanded of us. As Paul writes in Romans 12:19–21:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the order of our prayers, asking for divine justice should be included as the “last resort” option, a plea for doing what is necessary for those who will neither turn to God nor turn away from doing evil.
As former enemies of God, we should be gracious and grateful that we are allowed to pray for our enemies, secure in the knowledge that Jesus will hear our pleas.
As we anticipate the Week of Prayer, may we come with earnest expectancy.
Yours most Sincerely. Frank