When nations are torn asunder and the victims of this unrest are the youngest and most tender, I wring my hands when I think of everything that my child has, every opportunity, every gift that she has as a result of a peaceful place to rest her head and my heart is broken. And I wonder how to talk to God about all this.
I’ve been camped out for weeks in the last chapter of Richard Foster’s book, Prayer, particularly in a chapter titled Radical Prayer, and more specifically how we can embrace the whole world in prayer:
So we throw caution to the wind and pray not just for individuals but also for nations, not just for the renewal of the Church but also for the transformation of the world. We pray for and work for the kingdom to com on earth–on all the earth–as it is in heaven.
Here is how a wonderfully wise woman of prayer taught me to pray for the nations. We are to begin, she said, by focusing on one nation and prayerfully discerning what kind of nation it should be. If it is an aggressor nation, for example, we may sense that it should retreat form its self-aggrandizement and begin “sending out into the world little golden arrows of trade and commerce and financial cooperation.” At time we may narrow our prayers to those who make decisions that can change he course of a nation toward rightness. We bless the broken bits of virtue these leaders already display and ask that they, like loaves and the fishes, will be multiplied and used for good.”
I could go on and on, but I will stop here and begin:
Lord, we pray for the nation of Iraq, that the subversive force of ISIS would be defeated by those who seek justice above all else, that men who hearts are fully devoted and committed to you would come to power, that for Syria, in this civil war now for four years in which more that 300,000 have been killed, major cities reduced to rubble and where 4M have fled, we refuse to see this as their end. We refuse to accept this. We refuse to accept the forces of darkness and we cling to your kingdom of light. So we pray, just as the prophet Isaiah did for the nation of Israel, the year of the Lord’s favor on Iraq, Afghanistan on Syria. You have sent us to proclaim good news to the poor, you have sent us to bind up the brokenhearted, you have sent us, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes the oil of joy instead of mourning; and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. That they, those who have turned their hearts toward you, will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Strangers will shepherd their flocks; foreigners will work their fields and vineyards. And you, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Amen.