Cross Points 5.7.21

Prayers for our Country

“Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray…” Shakespeare, Richard III.

“Electricity will replace God.  The peasants should pray to it; in any case they will feel its affects long before they feel any effect from on high,” said Vladimir Lenin during the Russian Revolution.  Years later when President Roosevelt suggested to Lenin’s successor Joseph Stalin that they check with the Pope on European policies, Stalin replied, “The Pope!  How many army divisions has he got?”

When we visited the Ukraine in 2007, we stayed with a lady a couple of nights in her small former Communist apartment.  They allowed us to sleep in their only bed, while the lady and her two children slept in the living room on the coach and floor.  She had once belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, but now attended the small Christian gathering we took part in, in a make-shift church within a compound in Bilohirs’k, Crimea.  She would cover her head with a scarf any time the Bible was read, a tradition of respect in the Orthodox church.  Many of the Orthodox churches and cathedrals in the USSR became museums of atheism during the Soviet’s reign.    Lenin and his associates closed 98% of the churches during his time in charge, even as prayers were offered to keep them open.  What difference do such prayers make, the atheist and the critic ask?  What difference for America do our prayers make, we ask as we watch our country falling apart with a new worldview that is not Christian?
Much of Europe finds little meaning in church or prayer.  One reason listed is that the two World Wars which devastated much of Europe had this effect.  Why would “Christian Europe” experience such bad things, they asked?  Not having an answer, faith declined among the people.  That is the battle fought by Open Door Libraries, which Rexanne and I support.  Finding a people who generally want nothing to do with traditional “churches” and who won’t enter a church building, ODL tries to offer another path to resources, relationships, and knowledge that will spark faith.  In Europe, much like in America today, the “Christian” designation was largely in name only.  One of my goals with Cross Points is trying to inspire true discipleship, more than name only Christianity.

As we are exploring in this series on prayer, finding a direct and immediate link between our prayers and God’s response is not always easy.  So many things complicate the process.  SHCC’s Monday evening small group is studying a book on what is called The Daniel Prayer.  At one-point Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks.  When he finally receives a messenger from God, he discovers that God heard his prayers and sent this messenger, but the messenger had been delayed by the “prince of the kingdom of Persia.”  Only when Michael, another angel, came to help him, was he freed to reach Daniel.  We learn that there is much going on in the spirit world that we don’t see or understand, and it impacts the answers to our prayers.  This, plus the prevalence of sin in a messed-up world, bad choices and consequences of free-will, all provide a big picture scenario we can’t fully comprehend.

Any yet we pray!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer would suffer and eventually die at a hangman’s noose during WW2, but he continued to pray for his country to the very end, saying, “A day without morning and evening prayers is actually a day without meaning or importance.”  He saw that although we don’t always get the answers we want in our naivety, this partnership with God is essential to our faith and connection, opening us up to the direction we need.
As Christian people prayed and worked peacefully for freedom in Eastern Europe, an amazing thing happened in 1989.  In Romania, in Eastern Germany, in the Czech Republic, and other eastern-block-countries, the iron curtain came down!  Millions peacefully protested and eventually welcomed Pope John Paul II to his homeland, in defiance of the Communist leaders, the crowds shouting, “We want God! We want God!”  In answer to Stalin’s question about how many army divisions the Pope (and Christians) have, the answer it would seem, is quite a few!  As the song goes, even when we don’t see it or feel it, he’s working.  Keep praying, my friends, keep praying.        
Cross Point: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).  
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