Pray that the Lord would protect our neighbors a world away, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Pray that as God delivered Paul from the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) he would deliver those who have entrusted their souls to him in faith by any means necessary. Pray that the Lord would wondrously convert the wicked (Acts 9:1-7) and if not, that he would restrain or destroy them for the sake of His bride, the church (Psalm 139:19).
I was sitting in Mr. Scott’s 10th grade English class when the principal’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker: “Attention teachers and students, I’ve just received word of a terrible accident at the World Trade Center in New York City.” No doubt, many of you remember where you were on September 11, 2001, when you first heard the dreadful news. In the days and weeks that followed, America and her allies declared war against the al-Qaeda terror network responsible for the attack and the Taliban regime who harbored them in Afghanistan.
Now, 20 years later, our lives are being flooded again with unsettling images of people falling, not from burning buildings but from swarmed airplanes, men in truck beds toting AK-47s, and women and children running for their lives. In the wake of the withdrawal of remaining American troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban surged, retaking cities previously liberated from their barbaric tyranny. In just days, the capital city of Kabul fell and the country has since slipped back beneath the dark waters of fear and oppression. Only this time the Taliban are armed to the teeth with billions of dollars in American weapons left behind in the evacuation.
The situation is dire. Once again, women have been stripped of their humanity and civil rights, being required to veil themselves from head to toe and forbidden from pursuing education, employment, or leaving their homes alone. Once again, girls are being tortured, kidnapped, and sold into sexual slavery. Once again young men and boys are being conscripted into military service at gunpoint. And once again, our Christian brothers and sisters will be forced to choose: renounce Christ and live or confess him and die.
Even after the liberation in 2001, Christianity remained illegal in Afghanistan. But over the past twenty years, thousands have come to faith in Jesus Christ, worshipping secretly in their homes. Now, under the Taliban’s ruthless Sharia Law, conversion from Islam is a capital crime, punishable by death. We are already receiving disturbing reports from Afghan church leaders of soldiers gathering intelligence, checking the roles at local mosques, and going to the homes of suspected Christians. As footage of public beatings and executions surfaces, believers are being encouraged by their leaders to flee the country or remain hidden indoors. Unless the Lord intervenes with a mighty hand, the worst is yet to come for Afghan Christians.
In the face of such evil what can American Christians do? We can pray! Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ facing persecution around the world knowing that the prayers of the righteous have “great power” in their working (James 5:16), not because the prayers of the righteous are great but because the one who has made them righteous and promised to hear them is great! Pray in light of Hebrews 13:3 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body.”
But how should we pray? Pray that the Lord would protect our neighbors a world away, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Pray that as God delivered Paul from the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) he would deliver those who have entrusted their souls to him in faith by any means necessary. Pray that the Lord would wondrously convert the wicked (Acts 9:1-7) and if not, that he would restrain or destroy them for the sake of His bride, the church (Psalm 139:19). Pray that God would pour out the Holy Spirit upon his people to galvanize their faith and give them the right words in the crucial hour (Luke 12:12). Pray that, if God has sovereignly decreed the deaths of Afghan Christians, that they would face their end with courage, clinging to Christ, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). Pray that the blood of the martyrs would be the seed of a thriving Christian church in Afghanistan and spark a revival around the world. Pray that God would keep us ever mindful of and grateful for the delicate liberties we enjoy as Americans able to worship freely and without fear. Pray that the Lord would expand our capacity to sense the bigness of his kingdom and our union with Christians around the world, especially those facing persecution for the sake of his name. Pray that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
Pray as those whose own souls depend upon the prayers of another, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, who “ever lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Jim McCarthy is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Senior Pastor of First PCA in Hattiesburg, Miss.