Life Ministry

A Prayer for Christians in Iraq

Arabic-NazareneMerciful Heavenly Father,

We do not know how to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, but we trust that your Spirit prays for us in our weakness. So we cry, How long before you will judge and avenge the blood of your saints (Rev. 6:10)? How long shall the wicked exult (Ps. 94:3)? How long, O God, is the foe to scoff and the enemy to revile your name (Ps. 74:10)? Why, O LORD, do you stand far away; why do you hide yourself in times of trouble (Ps. 10:1)?”

Have mercy on our brothers and sisters and bring this evil violence to an end with justice. Protect your people and give them favor as they seek to flee from the terrorists. Help them to remember that you hear their cries for help (Ps. 5:1-2). For the blameless will not be put to shame in evil times, but the wicked will perish (Ps. 37:18-19). Assure them, by your Spirit, that they are your children and are loved and secure even when they walk in the valley of death (Ps. 23; Rom. 8:15-17). Help them to believe that they are blessed because they have suffered for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10). Help them to be more satisfied in your steadfast love than they have ever been before (Ps. 90:14). Help them to remember that the sufferings of this world do not compare with their future glory (Rom. 8:19). Help them know that they can flee to you as their refuge and strong tower (Ps. 61:3). Help them remain faithful to you (James 1:12), endure to the end (Matt. 10:22), and rejoice that they are counted worthy to share in Christ’s suffering (Acts 5:41; Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13). Help them to remember that here they have no lasting city and that they are headed for the city that is to come (Heb. 11:16; 13:14).

And Father, forgive and have mercy on those who may have recanted of their faith to avoid death, even though they may truly love you. Let them experience a Peter-like moment of repentance so that they might rise and feed your sheep and stand strong in the strength of your might (Eph. 6:10)

For us, Father, as Americans, we may feel guilty that we are not suffering in the same fashion. It may even be hard for us to pray for your vengeance. But that is only because we are not suffering. We are in an air-conditioned facility free from affliction or pressure or even the slightest bit of mocking. Soften our hearts and wreck us with compassion so we might suffer with our brothers and sisters and pray for them (Rom. 12:15). And prepare us for the day when this kind of persecution finds us, because we aren’t immune (1 Pet. 4:12).

But, you O God, aren’t immune either. On the the cross, your Son cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46). Because Jesus was forsaken on the cross, help our brothers and sisters know they do not need to fear being forsaken by you. For you will never abandon them (Ps. 16:10; Heb. 13:5). Would that promise empower them, and us, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, just as you did (Matt. 5:44).

In times of trouble, truly you do not stand far away. Jesus, you are the strength of your people; you are the saving refuge of your anointed ones. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage. For our brothers and sisters in Iraq, be their shepherd and carry them forever (Ps. 28:8-9).

Come, Lord Jesus, come (Rev. 22:20)! Amen.

Note on the graphic above: The ISIS terrorists have been marking this symbol on the homes of Christians in Iraq. It’s the Arabic letter “N,” short for “followers of Jesus of Nazareth.”


Boy Burned By Masked Men: Is Hell Too Good for Them?

I just read a story on about an Iraqi boy who was doused with gasoline and burned by masked men in Baghdad.

The story just crushes my heart. If you look at the article, the boy was smiling–very cute and joyful. Now, he has a crushed face, no lips, no friends, and no hope of ever overcoming this trial unless he comes to know Jesus. All I could do when I stared at his picture was say, “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” It sickens me that human beings can do something like this to other human beings. The harsh reality of life is that some people love sin more than doing good (John 3:19), so things like this happen all over the world, every minute of the day.

On WordPress, a blogging site, there was a post yesterday about this news story entitled, “Hell is Too Good for People Like This.” The post read:

“A happy intelligent 5-year old boy in Iraq is playing in the park, then is randomly seized by fellow Iraqis, doused in gasoline, and set ablaze while his attackers flee. He survives, but what kind of life can he lead? What kind of twisted, evil people do this to a child?”

Though I understand the point the author tried to make (mainly by the blog title), I realize that this man is not a follower of Christ who can look at the sin of the world from a biblical lens. If I had a conversation with this blogger and he said to me, “Hell is too good for people like this.” I would respond:

“We all deserve to go to hell. Hell is perfectly fit for people like this. People like you and me are perfectly fit for hell.”

That is a hard statement to swallow, isn’t it? “People like you and me are perfectly fit for hell.” Most people, even Christians, wouldn’t like to hear that. Hell wasn’t mean for us, but we are fit for hell. We think that at our core, we are essentially good. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no not one.” J.I. Packer said it best, “Modern men and women are convinced that, despite all their little peccadilloes–drinking, gambling, reckless driving, sexual laxity, black and white lies, sharp practice in trading, dirty reading, and what have you–they are at heart thoroughly good folks” (Knowing God, 130). You see, people think that what they do in their gross, infected, sinful lives is generally okay as long as they are fine with it. God doesn’t see it that way, however.

I hate when people compartmentalize their sin. They say that burning a child is worse than sleeping with your girlfriend. One has greater earthly consequences than the other, yes. But to God, who is infinitely and completely perfect and holy, all sin looks disgusting. His standard is perfection and we have all fallen short (Rom. 3:23). I’ve never met a person who has said they have never sinned. But, almost everyone I have ever met thinks their sins are not bad enough to send them to hell. If you aren’t perfect, then you are defiled. We all aren’t perfect, so we are all defiled.

“What kind of evil, twisted people do this to a child?” The answer is potentially anyone who is not born of the Spirit of God.

So, pray for Youssif, the young boy, in Iraq, that the Holy Spirit would draw him to God and his anger and irritability caused by these men would be exchanged for delight of the Lord. But also pray for Nitsav, the WordPress blogger, that he would be convicted of his own wretchedness and depravity and be turned to Jesus for forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and freedom. Pray that Nitsav would know that hell wasn’t meant for you and me, but we all deserve to go there. And we all will, unless we trust in the Lord Jesus by faith and confess to him our sinfulness.