To deny that our world is in turmoil would be an ignorant attitude. It starts in the heart of the individual too depressed to make his way to work, it spreads to entire companies treating human beings as disposable for mere profit, and it escalates to large scale conflicts that once again reach the individual consuming the news of death and suffering on TV. The network or intertwining of the world’s hurts is a reality that we need to embrace regardless of how hurtful it may be. And here is why:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
It is the greatest commandment. To love God with everything we have, means that we will love one another and value our intrinsic worth. It simply goes hand in hand that if we passionately and earnestly know and obey God, love will spring from it and we can extend it to others. Admittedly, in our broken human state, distractions and earthly desires often slow down our pursuit of knowing God better. However, regardless of these difficulties, we need to strive for the fulfilment of the greatest command.
These days, I often find myself looking to the Middle East. The chaos and conflicts that the people suffer in this region are unimaginable for almost all of us. Televised images only give us a glimpse of what is really going on in these people’s lives. While people die being bombarded in Syria, we are being bombarded with images. And while Syrians are dying and endure constant fear, we are at risk of taking in the news as ‘just another war-story’. Desensitisation is dangerous and we as Christians need to be aware of it.
Never ever forget that we are all made in the image of our Creator. This means that not only are those made in God’s image who we can see crying and bleeding on the news, but also those who are causing all of this hostility and violence. Those who might commit suicide bombings or are part of terror organisations need our prayers just as much as those who lead the nations involved in these conflicts. Though difficult for us, Jesus Christ emphasised that prayers for our enemies are vital when following his example.
44 ‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, […].’
It is a huge challenge to do just that. Horrific things are happening all over the world and they are committed by human beings. They are the devil’s slaves and their foundation has been totally corrupted. I appreciate the lives that are put at risk on the battlefields of this world to fight for our physical well-being. However, what we are fighting is far greater than a terrorist with explosives strapped around him, or even malicious armies. In the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote about this clearly:
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
This is where prayer comes in. It hurts to see so many people die; many of them are children, completely ignorant of the terror that is in their lives. But physical aid, although absolutely necessary, can only lead so far. The enemy in our world is not of flesh and blood. Reformer John Calvin was right when he said in his commentary on Ephesians that ‘the corruption of the world gives way to the kingdom of the devil; for he could not reside in a pure and upright creature of God, but all arises from the sinfulness of men.’
It is crucial to pray against sin. Pray that God will enter people’s hearts and drive out the devil and his terrible forces. Prayer is such a powerful weapon because it is not dependent on resources, time, or distance. God leaves no prayer unheard and He can make possible the things that we do not even dream of. Prayer has worked before, it will work today and it will definitely work tomorrow.