O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.Psalm 7:9
This might be my simple but faith-filled one-line prayer even now as I watch events unfold in Central Asia. In truth, however, the reality of what is occurring there causes such overwhelming heartbreak that I must rely on the Spirit who “helps us in our weakness,” who “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
As you read this, perhaps some weeks later, the situation in Central Asia will have developed further, for better or for worse, but I’ve no doubt that the need for God’s intervention – and our intercession – will continue for a long time to come. Indeed, we have prayed for decades for this land and people, and we have seen God’s hand of grace at work there. Our praying now must be all the more encouraged and empowered by that truth. Bishop Humphrey Peters, who leads the church with which we partner in Pakistan, has called us to prayer, suggesting that “if prior to the withdrawal we were praying once a day for [Central Asia], now we should pray 10 times.”
Not every day, but certainly on many days, I have prayed for Central Asia 10 times and even more, as we have kept our eyes on the unfolding tumult there. Through these days I have been led to pray in more specific ways, guided by communications with our partners, by my own recollections of visits there, and by reading what some informed Christians leaders have said. I share these prayers with you here in hopes that you may find them helpful as you also pray for Central Asia.
Prayer should always begin with praise for our heavenly Father, and acknowledgement of his sovereignty and goodness. After that, however, with regard to Central Asia, I have found it necessary to begin in grief and lament, weeping with those who weep and aligning myself with their sorrow, pain, anger and fear as they face such injustice and turmoil. This, I find, best prepares me to intercede for them.
Though deeply saddened, I can also rejoice in the safe evacuation of thousands, including Christian workers, but I cannot fail to join them in praying for those they worriedly have left behind. Many are desperate to escape. We pray rescue and refuge for them, especially Christians, minority groups, women and girls, and others who are vulnerable.
As we pray, let’s not fail to also be thankful! There have been successes in these years: better health, more education, greater freedoms. As one writer said, “These victories will not be entirely smothered by the [new regime].” Similarly, the church in this country, though small, has grown in this time. One Christian worker writes that mission efforts “have left footprints in this country that cannot be erased.” Life- transforming work has been accomplished in health, community development, agriculture and education, and God has worked miracles through which thousands of citizens have come into God’s kingdom through Christ. We cry out to the Lord now that he will continue to sustain them in their faith, give them courage, and bless their testimony, for many of them are prepared to die for the cause of Christ.
While especially lifting up the few Christians in this land, we also want to pray for all who now find themselves living under a totalitarian and extremist regime. I’ve come to appreciate the perspective of Mariya Dostzadah Goodbrake, a refugee from Central Asia in years past who is now a Christian and directs a ministry to refugees. “I am specifically praying for a generation of courage, resilience, and determination to rise up,” she explains. “I believe that the generation that received a taste of liberation and basic dignity will not forget… My deep prayer is that this generation will not forget the fragrance of democracy but will rise up with courage to defeat the enemy. I pray for supernatural intervention in the hearts of the [my] people, that kingdom values and principles are miraculously planted as seeds in the soil of [my homeland], to grow as trees and bear fruit beyond our comprehension.”
We must lift up also the church in North America and elsewhere, that God would inspire great compassion and generosity to welcome the many refugees who will be settling in new and strange places, traumatized by their experiences and desperately needing the love of Christ.
Finally, but not “lastly,” let’s fervently pray for the extremists who have seized control of the country. When Jesus gave the command to love and pray for our enemies he knew that would one day include even this group that would threaten the lives of his own children, and, seemingly, would reverse and even destroy progress and gains that have come through incalculable sacrifice. We shall remember that Jesus sacrificed his very self for us, and for these people as well, so that his eternal kingdom of grace and salvation would be established for all eternity. How now shall we pray? Let us pray for this place and people who seem so far away, that Christ’s kingdom, which actually is not so far away (Matthew 4:17), will indeed come, for them, for us, and for all the world.