When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19 (KJV)
I’ve just returned from a Borderland Conference where we were invited to report on our ministries in Border countries and opportunities for collaboration. While we have churches providing humanitarian aid to refugees along with worship services, our primary focus is their countries of origin—education and economic development as spiritual outreach. Our experience has been that people prefer to stay in their own culture and in their homeland if they can have their needs met.
In some places violence and poverty have created an environment that threatens the lives and well-being of many people. Such was the case in a city in one of the countries where we work in Central America. Domestic abuse, witchcraft, cults, and alcoholism led to poverty and violence that seemed endless. In fact, crime was so bad in that small city that it was necessary to have four jails just to house the criminals. Finally, the church people got desperate. They determined to do something extremely radical. They prayed.
Three to four times a week, church members got together to pray. Some even began the practice of fasting. They prayed and fasted, and they didn’t stop. Eventually, disruptive family members began coming to faith in Jesus, and violence declined. The crime rate dropped so dramatically that the authorities closed the jails.
As people began practicing their faith, their lives, their families, and their community were transformed. People began working again, and the economy grew. Their town is now one of the cleanest and most prosperous in the country. When asked if they’d like to join the “caravan” headed for the United States, people responded that there was no need to leave.
So one might think that the church has diminished their fasting and prayers, but instead, they say they need to be vigilant so that their story can be shared as encouragement that God can do what no one else can. They continue to meet together on Saturdays for prayer vigils, and others continue to fast.
The Bible challenges us with stories of God’s people who have encountered powerful enemies such as Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign (II Kings 19) and the Moabites’ and Ammonites’ attack on Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 20). And who can forget God’s deliverance of David from Saul and his many other enemies? In each of these biblical stories, the people in desperation turned in prayer to God, asking for his intervention and his wisdom. And God answered.
I am sorry to say that as I have shared the story of the folks in the transformed city of Central America, I have been greeted with polite smiles and, for the most part, silence. Is prayer too radical for us today? And as I heard someone say when prayer was mentioned, “Oh, my, has it come to that?” I think it’s time to get radical.
Father, you tell us that we have not for we ask not. We’d rather work through our situations on our own—until we can’t. Stir us until we again turn to you expectantly with our most serious of needs. It’s time NOW. We need to pray. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.