In David’s absence, I’ve been asked to send this week’s email as a guest writer. My name is Sara and I’m the Prayer Coordinator for Tearfund. I find this role a blessing and a challenge, because each day my inbox has emails from my colleagues from around the world sharing some amazing stories of transformation – and also calling for prayer for some of the toughest places on earth.
This week two such places are Syria and the Philippines.
How do you pray for Syria and the Philippines?
Sometimes all you can do is to pray for the most obvious tangible needs in response to the media images and headlines. At other times it’s hard to know where to begin as the needs are so great and the despair so overwhelming.
In recent weeks I've been asking God to help me pray in a different way. Not only to ask God to end the things that are wrong or bad, or to provide support to families in need but to ask, ‘Lord, what do you want to begin? What new and good thing will you bring about as a result of what is happening in Syria or the Philippines?’
I’m encouraged in this by my work colleagues in India who have been busy responding to the immediate needs of people affected by Cyclone Phailin, which left a trail of destruction in its path, wiping out communities and livelihoods. They tell me that the recovery and rebuilding effort is also bringing communities together to share the limited resources, uniting people across the different caste systems from the highest to the lowest.
Other seeds are being planted, the fruit of which is beyond my limited vision and my subsequent prayers. I want to pray and hope that this is happening in Syria and will one day happen in the Philippines too.
So when I pray it’s messy.
I cry out, asking, ‘How much longer, Lord? How many more refugees have to flee the conflict in Syria? How many more families will be grieving the loss of their loved ones from typhoon Haiyan?’
I pray for the obvious – for Syria I ask for an end to the fighting; for the guns to be silent; for the proposed peace negotiations, known as Geneva II, to take place without delay or hindrance; and in the Philippines I pray for people to find safe places to stay and food to eat; and for aid agencies to get help and emergency supplies through to where they are most needed.
I pray for the unseen – for emotional and spiritual healing, and for God’s comfort and presence to be near to all.
I give thanks for the glimmers of hope, such as the UN mandate on chemical weapons surrender, and for local churches serving their communities.
I ask for wisdom to know how to pray and for perseverance and strength to keep on praying.
I lift up my brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray the church will be all that God is asking it to be in the time of trial – Christ-cantered, courageous, compassionate, loving and truthful.
I am quiet before God as I surrender my own will to his will, my limited perspective to his heavenly one. I trust that God is at work sowing seeds of hope in these places.
I pray for the future of these two countries, when its citizens will return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives. I pray for children’s laughter to be heard on the street as they play.
And finally, through it all, I hope and pray that I’m listening to God as he shapes my prayers and directs my actions.
When it looks impossible.
Ephesians 3:20 says, 'Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…'
So with this in mind, let our prayers be messy for the difficult issues and heart-breaking places.
But let us also remember whom we are praying to in the midst of it all.