A challenging and prayer-provoking post from The Gospel Coalition:
Even with the restraining force of a U.S. military presence, Afghanistan was listed by Open Doors as a land where “persecution is only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.” Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. As Open Doors notes, they either have to flee the country or they will be killed. “How we survive daily only God knows,” says one secret Afghan believer. “He knows because he has been kind to dwell with us. But we are tired of all the death around us.”
As U.S. troops rapidly exit the country, followers of Christ in Afghanistan will become even more exposed to persecution. Girls and women will also suffer, as will those who helped Western forces for the past 20 years. We need to diligently pray for these vulnerable populations, and ask that God will protect them from the suffering to come.
Christians in the West should pray for the spiritual provision of ministers and missionaries in the country. “Every church leader who has emailed or texted me has asked that we would pray for the Lord to strengthen them in their faith—that they would ‘stay strong in the Lord, who is the Sovereign King,’ as one put it,” says Josh Manley.
We should also pray for those who are sick. As Open Doors points out, “Though underreported in international media, COVID-19 cases are spiking in the country and hospitals are limited in what they can offer. There is no certainty as to how the healthcare system will be able to sustain itself with the new Taliban government.” We must also pray that the fall of the state will not lead to more extremism and terrorism. “The Taliban’s swift advance can only embolden extremists,” says Paul Robinson of Release International.
But there is another group Jesus tells us we need to pray for—the Taliban.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43).
When Jesus gave the command to love and pray for our enemies he knew it would one day require praying for Islamic extremist groups, like the Taliban, who murder his bride. Praying for the Taliban is not something we would choose. But it is what Jesus has commanded of us.
At this moment, it’s also worth remembering that not all of our enemies are military or political, and not all are on the battlefield. We may encounter them in our homes, our neighborhoods, or online. The most personal and hate-filled battles of the 21st century are often waged on a keyboard. Pray for those we disagree with…those we insult…those who hurt us and provoke us to try and hurt them.
Pray that all of us can put away the sword.
From Aleteia, here’s a Catholic prayer for our enemies, from a saintly source, asking for conciliation and grace:
St. Thomas More, a man who had many enemies during his lifetime, composed a prayer that helps cultivate a merciful heart, one that asks God’s grace to come down on a person’s enemies.
Here is the prayer that he wrote, a prayer that we can all incorporate into our lives, praying that we will be united with our enemies in heaven, forever rejoicing in the glory of God.
Almighty God, have mercy on N. and on all that bear me evil will and would me harm, and on their faults and mine together, by such easy, tender, merciful means, as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen.
God, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to Thine, that I may truly say: “Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo et in terra.” Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me Thy grace to labor for. Amen.
Finally, a prayer for peace from Pope Francis:
Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!
We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried… But our efforts have been in vain.
Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”. Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.
Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!