You Have No Idea

Have you noticed that sometimes (actually most of the time) when you pray, you have so much on your prayer list that by the time you finish, you haven’t prayed for anyone else outside yourself and your immediate family?  I have.  We can get so wrapped up in ourselves and our needs that we forget to consider the needs of our friends, church family, community and our world at large.  We fail to intercede for each other.  One of the important lessons we learn from Jesus is that even while facing persecution and His pending crucifixion, He considered and prayed for his disciples.  We have to keep this in mind so that we fulfill a crucial part of being imitators of Christ, interceding for each other.

A critical area where we need to intercede for each other is our safety and well-being.   I think we should continue to pray for our own personal safety, but praying for everyone’s well-being is key in protecting ourselves.  When we intercede for each other, we close all gaps, all opportunities for the enemy to take a strong hold in our lives.  We strengthen our core as well as our borders.  It has become more and more necessary that we become cognizant of our responsibility to each other, for what affects one person affects us all.  If anything, we must realize that if someone is not safe, then our safety too is not secured.
I am moved to write on this subject because of the many accounts of senseless cruelty, violent crimes and deaths surrounding us.  Each day, we are confronted with news from various communication sources citing grievous incidents.  The information presented to us confirms that our world is only getting worse.  We become disturbed and disheartened, but these are the signs of the times as the Bible has already warned us that we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6-7) and that because “iniquity will abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12).  Unfortunately, these events are not removed from us, but very close.  We are living in dangerous times and we are all vulnerable to premeditated or random violence.
The news we hear is not the tale of someone else.  The news is about us, not only because it is about mankind, but also because just as it happens to another person, it can easily happen to us.  These narratives from the media are about our safety, our chances, and our tragedies.  We can be hit hard with senseless violence and preventable tragedies.  Even worse, our children are more vulnerable and there is almost no safe harbor for them.  These days we can’t rest assured that they will be safe in their schools, the Boy Scouts or even in the church.  There is someone always preying on them, pedophiles, child abusers of the emotional and physical kind, cruel and psychologically disturbed people.  They can emotionally and spiritually impact our kids in a very harmful way.
I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news, neither do I want to incite fear in anyone, but I think that as much as we might want to distance ourselves from such fearful thoughts and acts, we have to at least bear some reality in mind and then take the necessary steps to combat becoming victimized.  As Christians, we are in the midst of warfare and must be vigilant and wise as the Bible advises.  What do I mean by warfare?   I mean that even as we go about innocently minding our business and living our lives as law-abiding and practicing Christians, danger is lurking somewhere, someplace.  We have to understand that negative spiritual forces are at work against the lives of all people, even if one is a child of God.
For instance, there are some accounts of individuals who walked close with God and had no idea that they were in warfare.  The Apostle Peter walked closely with Jesus.  If there was an inner circle within the twelve apostles and Jesus, Peter was certainly in that circle.  He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Peter was passionate and even aggressive for the Lord, but Jesus knew that with all his passion and with all his good intentions for the ministry, Peter was like everyone else.  He was a prey for the devil and the devil had set his sights on him.  Peter was clearly unaware of this as Jesus revealed to him that “Satan had desired to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you….”  (Luke 22:31).
Just as he wanted with Peter, the enemy has a desire to destroy us, to render us useful for his kingdom or useless for God’s.  But Christ’s revelation to Peter is one to us also.  It warns us that we are not entirely safe and we shouldn’t take comfort in our ignorance.  Although we can take comfort in knowing that Christ is watching over and praying for us, we also have to be aware that our adversary, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1st Peter 5:8).  Knowing this, we are left with one important duty, to pray for each other.
Christ’s example with Peter teaches us how we should relate to each other as Christians.  I think it even teaches us how we should relate to all people.  We ought to intercede for each other.  We ought to have foresight, empathy and compassion.  Our compassion should not be activated after one has been sifted as wheat or completely destroyed.  It should be constantly within us and expressed outwardly.   A genuine expression of compassion is to remember each other in prayer.
I remember that when I was younger, it    puzzled me so much when someone would feel for another person whom they did not really know and they would cry or weep terribly for that person.  My mother used to do that.  I recall that when I was in high school, she received news on the death of an acquaintance’s daughter.  I remember she cried and cried on the phone while talking with the family and then when she was done talking, with the phone still in her hand and her back against the yellow kitchen wall, she slowly slid down to the floor and cried even more.  I looked at her as if something was wrong with her.  I had heard parts of the conversation and deduced that a young girl had passed.  Even still, I didn’t really understand why she was crying so terribly.  I said directly and insensitively to her “why are you crying?  You don’t even know the girl.”  With tear tracks down her face, and tears still welling in her eyes, my mom quietly looked at me and said nothing.
Quite a few years later and as life now counts me as a mother, I now understand what my mother felt.  I will say that ever since I became a mother, I sense in me a pain and empathy I had never really felt for others before.  I could be doing one thing or another and upon hearing of a particular tragedy that has occurred to another’s son, daughter, irrespective of the age, I become so disturbed that my eyes begin to well up with tears that I have to control myself by forcefully shutting down the tears that might want to make their way out of my eyes.  I would force myself to endure the pain internally, especially when people were around just so that I wouldn’t appear as an emotional nutcase, a woman without any control of her feelings.
There was one situation that I just couldn’t shut my heart and emotions down enough to restrain the flooding of the tears.  A little five year old girl was raped and strangled.  It turned out that her own mother had sold her into prostitution for a few dollars worth of drugs.  The story resonated with me because I have a five year old niece; I also have a four year old daughter as well as help with children from infancy to five years old at my church.   I know how I adore them and can only imagine how other mothers and families could easily adore their little princesses.  There was no shutting down of the tears that time.  I wept out loud in my home.  I wept for the tragic loss of that girl’s life.
After we have heard so many terrible accounts of such events, what are we doing about them beyond shaking our heads in disbelief?  How are we expressing our compassion?  How are we also working to prevent such a thing from happening to those near us and even ourselves?  This girl’s situation reminds me of what Jesus said to Peter.  He tells him that Satan had desired to sift him like wheat. Satan hasn’t changed and Peter is not the only intended victim.  All the evil in the world is orchestrated by Satan’s dark forces and it is these forces that move human beings to become so destructive and murderous that they would harm little children.  But aside from that particular news event, what of all the others like the adoptive mother in the state of Maryland who emotionally, psychologically, and physically abused, murdered and kept the bodies of two of her adopted daughters in a freezer?  How could something like this happen?  How could the domestic landscape become so tumultuous that a husband would intentionally set his wife on fire?
While we hear these horrific stories, we have to remember that this is what Christ was talking about to Peter.  We have to know that like Peter, we have no idea what the enemy is plotting against us, how he is ready to use someone to bring pain and heartache to our lives whether it will come by harming us directly or indirectly by harming a loved one.  We have no idea. The great Job also had no idea that the devil had gone to God seeking permission to harm him.  Consider all the destruction of his wealth, the death of all his children and what he physically suffered.  Although Job was a righteous man, he didn’t know that he was in warfare and he certainly didn’t know that the enemy had intentions of destroying him, sifting him like wheat.
So what are we to do, be nervous, insecure and intimidated by life?  No, but we ought to recall the actions and words of Christ so that we will pray not only for ourselves but for each other.  There is power in compassion, empathy and most importantly, prayer.  There is power in interceding for each other.  We ought to pray for our family, our church members, our neighbors, our children’s friends and acquaintances.  We ought to pray for as many people as we can on a regular basis, so that we could spiritually thwart any physical manifestation of harm that the enemy of righteousness is plotting against lives.  That is the action we should take.  That is the advice inherent in Jesus’ words to Peter.